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12 Foods to Never Buy at a Beach Concession Stand

Spending the day at the beach is what summer is all about—but if you want to keep looking good in that swimsuit, avoid these choices at the concession stand. (Plus, here's what to choose instead!)

double cheeseburger with tomato and onionOlga Miltsova/Shutterstock

Cheeseburgers

That cheeseburger will be topped with processed cheese that’s more filler and preservatives than it is actual cheese. Order a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger and you can save around 100 calories and 450 milligrams of sodium while still getting plenty of protein from the ground beef. For toppings, ask for extra veggies like lettuce and tomatoes and skip mayo-based condiments that tack on fat and sodium and have little nutritional value. Here are the best summer foods to eat if you’re trying to slim down.

Classic pepperoni pizza close upPlaya del Carmen/Shutterstock

Personal pizza

“Personal” pizzas often add up to far more than one serving: A six-inch personal pizza can set you back around 600 calories with a full day’s worth of sodium and 11 grams of saturated fat. A single slice of cheese pizza, on the other hand, has less than half the calories, sodium, and fat. Opt for portion-controlled single slices of cheese or veggie pizza.

Close-up of yellow tortilla chips covered in nacho cheeseLifetimeStock/Shutterstock

Nachos

Concession stand nachos are dripping with processed nacho cheese sauce that’s packed with sodium and saturated fat while providing little in the way of filling protein or fiber. You’ll down nearly 500 calories, more than 100 grams of carbs, and nearly 600 milligrams of sodium. See if they have a single-serving bag of whole grain chips (like cheddar-flavored Sun Chips); you’ll satisfy that salty-cheesy-crunchy craving for about 200 calories. Here are some more delicious snack foods you don’t have to feel guilty about eating.

background corrugated golden chips with textureSerdyukPhotography/Shutterstock

Potato chips

Greasy potato chips are dense in calories and pack in plenty of sodium and fat. By switching to popcorn, you’ll get to eat more, you’ll get more fiber, and you’ll feel more satisfied—all for roughly the same number of calories (about 160). Ask for popcorn without butter to keep your snack on the light side, or grab a bag of white cheddar popcorn.

Fried chicken at street foodThanthima Lim/Shutterstock

Chicken tenders

Fried chicken tenders are a concession-stand staple, but they’re also full of fat and processed carbs thanks to the breading and deep-frying. Order a grilled chicken sandwich instead to get filling protein with less grease and calories. See if you can get the sandwich on a fiber-rich whole wheat bun or lettuce wrap.

Baked chili hot dogs with ketchup on wooden board, photographed overhead with natural lightIldi Papp/Shutterstock

Chili cheese dog

Dripping with processed chili and cheese, not to mention potentially cancer-causing preservatives found in most processed meats, this is a nutritional disaster. Ordering a plain hot dog won’t cut the amount of the preservatives, but it will shave off nearly 150 calories and six grams of fat. These are the unhealthiest foods you can buy at the supermarket.

Sweet Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich DessertBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Ice cream sandwich

A cold treat always sounds refreshing at the beach, but grabbing that chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich will give you a meal’s worth of calories (400), six grams of saturated fat, and 34 grams of sugar. How about that fruit popsicle, instead? It’s about 100 calories and only 14 grams of sugar.

machine for making ice slushy drinks studio2013/Shutterstock

Slushy or snow cone

Summer’s really the only time that frozen sugar water sounds appealing—but see if you can resist. With 110 calories and 27 grams of added sugar, these things will trigger a sugar rush that will soon be followed by a crash—and the desire for even more empty calories. Ask for the fruit popsicle instead, or just one pump of syrup in your snow cone. Learn the summer foods that are even healthier than you thought.

Refreshing Bubbly Soda Pop with Ice CubesBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Soda

This is a year-round poor choice: Research shows that drinking soda consistently (even diet soda!) is linked with higher rates of type 2 diabetes. A 12-ounce can of soda packs a whopping 39 grams of sugar. While diet sodas are calorie-free, their artificial sugars might pose serious health risks, so you’re better off ordering a refreshing beverage like unsweetened iced tea with lemon.

Chocolate chip cookies background5 second Studio/Shutterstock

Chocolate chip cookie

This comfort food is available at nearly every concession stand, but it’s also a sugar bomb that can be as big around as your head. Choose the small bag of trail mix to get a chocolate hit along with some filling nuts and dried fruit.

Homemade Soft Pretzels with Salt Ready to EatBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Soft pretzel

That pretzel may seem harmless—it’s not soaked in grease or covered in neon fake cheese. But it packs a wallop in the calorie department: A large one has nearly 500 calories, 100 grams of carbs, and just two grams of fiber, which makes it similar to eating an unsweetened cinnamon roll: You’re getting a bunch of quickly-digested starchy carbs that will jack up your blood sugar. (And don’t forget, those soft pretzels can pack two days’ worth of sodium.) You’re better off grabbing a pack of peanut butter-filled crackers, which have just under 200 calories; their fat and protein will help slow down the absorption of carbs. Here are the 8 healthiest nutritionist-approved foods at the fair this summer.

french friesNishihama/Shutterstock

French fries

French fries are the default side order at most concession stands, but it’s no secret that they’re not a great option. A three-ounce side of french fries delivers more than 250 calories and nearly 14 grams of fat. Instead of snacking on french fries, opt for a small bag of hard pretzels. You get a salty snack to enjoy alongside your sandwich, but you’ll control the portion and cut out nearly all of the fat you get from fries. If you prefer packing your own beach eats, check out these helpful tips to have the best seaside picnic.

Christy Brissette, MS, RD
Christy Brissette, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and a leading nutrition and food communications expert. President of 80 Twenty Nutrition, a nutrition and food media company, her mission is to end food confusion and dieting once and for all. As a spokesperson, she is regularly interviewed on nutrition and health by CTV National News, CBC, The Globe and Mail, and many more. Her work as a nutrition and food writer, blogger, recipe developer, and YouTube video producer has been featured in Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, as well as many other national and international magazines.

In the earlier part of her career, Christy was the dietitian for cancer survivorship at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center (PMCC) in Toronto, Canada, one of the top five cancer centers in the world. During her time there, Christy created and delivered innovative nutrition education programs such as interactive live online nutrition and cooking classes that were streamed to other cancer centers across the country. While at the PMCC, Christy received their prestigious Innovation in Education Award and was recognized for using innovative and creative tools and strategies to foster a supportive learning environment and for stimulating critical thinking and problem solving through mentorship and an innovative approach. Christy is the recipient of the National Recognition Award from Dietitians of Canada, an honor chosen by her colleagues based on expanding the media footprint of dietitians. As the awards committee put it, “Christy is a role model for other dietitians interested in working with the media and representing the dietetics profession.”

Christy completed an Honors BASc in Nutrition and Food at Ryerson University where she later became an Advisory Committee member and guest lecturer. She completed the highly competitive dietetic internship at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and has a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the Faculty of Medicine at The University of Toronto. For her Master’s thesis, Christy ran a randomized control trial on the effects of different fibers on weight loss, glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetes. Visit her site 80 Twenty Nutrition.