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Guilt-Free, Indulgent Foods You Can Enjoy at Sandbridge Beach

At Sandbridge Beach, local food is delicious — and much of it can be healthful as well. There's an abundance of fresh seafood and produce, and the warm weather calls for light meals. Grilled, steamed or broiled seafood and vegetables are tasty and filling, and go perfectly with active days. Whether you're cooking in your rental house kitchen, picnicking at the beach, or taking in the local fare at a seaside restaurant, Sandbridge Beach has plenty of dining options where you can indulge in regional delights.

Simple breakfasts are a great way to start a day at the beach. Stock up on yogurt and small-batch granola from a local market, then load up on in-season fruit for snacks and breakfast toppings. Local produce stands offer freshly picked delights daily, starting with strawberries in the spring, melons and sweet corn in June, and juicy tomatoes in July. You'll also find butterbeans, peas, cucumbers, radishes and more.

Favorite stops are Cromwell's Produce, Cullipher Farm Market, Brookdale Farms, and the Flip Flop Farmer for u-pick patches and local honey. While you're there, pick up a carton of just-laid eggs. If you've got an active day planned, cook up the local "surfer's breakfast" of farm eggs over easy on a bed of rice.

Picnicking is a pleasant lunch option for days at the beach, and sandwiches are easy to make and transport. A Sandbridge Beach favorite is heirloom tomatoes sliced thick and served on freshly baked bread with Duke's mayo and sea salt. (Just remember to keep anything containing mayo well chilled.) You might also like the new Sandbridge-area favorite — a half hummus, half guacamole mix that you can use as a dip for vegetables or on bread with deli meat and cheese.

Another refreshing lunch option on a hot day is a fresh, crisp salad made with shrimp you grilled the night before. Just throw on an extra pound of local shrimp and a few ears of sweet corn the night before, keep it refrigerated, and add to a bowl of diced avocado, spinach, radishes and cherry tomatoes the next day.

Speaking of seafood, a vacation at Sandbridge Beach is the perfect time to indulge in the ocean's best bounty to your heart's content. Buy your fish or shellfish from one of our seafood markets the day you're going to eat it. Don't be shy about asking for recommendations on how to prepare it. Try Welton's Fresh Seafood Market, Balanga Fish, or Bonney & Sons Seafood and Produce for fresh North Carolina shrimp, blue crabs, oysters and more.

If you don't feel like cooking, Bonney & Sons delivers fresh seafood right to your door. Ask what the catch of the day is — it will likely be local crabs, shrimp, clams, or fish that's hard to find back home. And don't miss the opportunity to try one of their legendary homemade pies for dessert. (A little slice is the perfect ending to a healthy dinner.)You'll find the best way to enjoy local fish is to prepare it simply. Grill your fish with a little olive oil or butter and season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Shrimp are wonderful on the grill, especially in vegetable kebabs. Cube tomatoes, onion, eggplant and peppers, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs or dill and grill until the shrimp turns pink. If local oysters are in season (any month with an "r"), keep the grill hot, place oysters cupped side down on the grate and cover them while they cook. When they begin to open (about 2 minutes), serve with cocktail sauce. Oysters are best served with a filling side dish such as seafood gumbo or a big pan of cornbread.

While you have unlimited access to all that fresh seafood, now's the time to learn to make that traditional southern staple, Lowcountry Boil. You'll need Old Bay Seasoning, small potatoes, kielbasa, onions, fresh corn, fresh shrimp and crab claws. Boil the vegetables and sausage first, then add the seafood. Cook just 2 to 3 minutes more until done. Forget bowls and forks and eat the way the locals do — drain the water and spread the whole meal out on a newspaper-covered table outside. Dig in!

Since you're on vacation you won't want to cook all of your meals, so plan to enjoy plenty of leisurely dinners or long lunches at Sandbridge Beach restaurants. Look for regional favorites such as fish prepared any way you like it, crab legs, peel-and-eat shrimp and steamed oysters. And don't overlook seafood at breakfast — crab cakes with Béarnaise sauce or shrimp and grits may become your new favorites. Try Simply Steamed take-out seafood market for take-away ingredients, plus prepared lunches and dinners. Ask about their Steaming Pot of Seafood — the perfect just-add-water vacation feast.

With a little forethought and a quick trip to the market or restaurant, you can enjoy healthy, delicious food throughout your Sandbridge Beach vacation.

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