Eat, Drink and Be Healthy

Counting calories on the boardwalk

(Charlie Huget for The Washington Post)
By Jennifer Larue Huget
Thursday, September 2, 2010

I've visited Ocean City nearly every summer of my life. Though some prefer fancier shore resorts, I've always loved O.C. and its Boardwalk food.

This year, though, having recently lost weight on my Me Minus 10 campaign, I approached the Boardwalk warily. Could I enjoy my favorite beach foods without re-padding my hips?

Happily, I indulged in everything from fries to pizza without gaining an ounce. Of course, I walked a lot, swam in the surf and did yoga on the beach. But I also chose my treats carefully and, most important, exercised portion control. (Because nutrition facts are hard to come by on the Boardwalk, also known as Atlantic Avenue, in most cases I just used my best judgment.)

Just in time for Labor Day beach excursions, here are my top food choices on the Boards.

1.TLC's Polish Water Ice. A small serving of this smooth, slushy frozen treat has about 112 calories and, according to the company's Web site, is fat-free and supplies 100 percent of your daily value of Vitamin C. Store manager Stoyan Stoyanov says a small is four ounces, a medium eight ounces (for 224 calories) and a large 12 ounces (for 336 calories). Owner Tom Curyto says the calorie count can vary slightly among the chain's 20 flavors. The watermelon flavor became my go-to sweet snack. $3 for a small cup. 306 S. Atlantic Ave. and 101 N. Atlantic Ave. 610-594-1280.

2.Tony's Pizza slice. It wouldn't be a trip to O.C. without a slice of Tony's, which has a thin crust and not too much cheese. (Similar to Dough Roller, which is fine, too, but not our family's traditional choice.) General manager Carl Hoffman says a slice of plain cheese pizza has 120 calories. The fresh-made tomato sauce is a good source of vitamins A and C and the antioxidant lycopene; the cheddar cheese topping, though full of saturated fat, also supplies a bit of calcium and protein. $2.85. 3 Atlantic Ave. 410-289-5740.

3.Love's Lemonade. Smoothies abound on the Boardwalk, but most are made from cartons of fruit puree, which doesn't seem special enough. My family indulged instead in a nostalgic favorite, fresh-squeezed lemonade. I've always gotten mine at Love's, where you can ask them to go easy on the sugar. One cup of full-sugar lemonade has about 120 calories (plus a bit of Vitamin C). When you order a small, you get 16 ounces, or two cups, for a total of 240 calories. $3.50. 17 Atlantic Ave. 410-289-2594.

4.Thrasher's french fries. Manager Les Morris says nobody knows how many calories a serving of Thrasher's contains, or even how many potatoes make up a 16-ounce ("small") serving. (The Boardwalk Fries brand's similar seven-ounce serving has about 600 calories.) The potatoes are fresh cut and fried in healthful peanut oil, and you add your own salt (to control the sodium).

But even the small tub is more than anyone needs. You could share with a friend. Or try my strategy: Sprinkle the fries at the top with vinegar and stop eating once you reach the dry fries below. Trash cans abound; toss the rest right away so you're not tempted to keep picking. $4.75 for small. 401 S. Atlantic Ave. and 801 N. Atlantic Ave. 410-289-7232 and 410-289-4150.

5.Kohr Bros. frozen custard. The nutrition information on the Kohr Bros. Web site is for "1 small cone or cup," or one-half cup; the small cones my family ordered held at least twice that much. A half cup of vanilla custard has 130 calories (50 from fat); the orange sherbet has 104 calories per half cup (17 from fat). We twisted the two for optimal flavor and minimal fat. $3.75 for small cone or cup. 401 S. Atlantic Ave. and 112 S. Atlantic Ave. 410-289-1178.

6.Dolle's Candyland saltwater taffy. Owner and operator Andrew Dolle steered me away from the fudge ("It's fat on fat, but that's why it tastes so good," he says) and toward the taffy: Seven kiss-shaped pieces add up to 150 calories, 30 of them from fat.

At least you can't gobble taffy, and you can pick seven flavors, making for an extra-satisfying treat. Bonus: Each serving provides 6 percent of the daily value for both calcium and iron. Skip the sugar-free variety, Dolle advises; its only benefit is protecting against tooth decay. 85 cents for seven pieces. 500 S. Atlantic Ave. 800-337-6001.

7.Jessica's Fudge House chocolate-covered blueberries. Seven fresh blueberries on a stick, dipped in dark chocolate. New research shows dark chocolate is good for your heart, and blueberries have heart-healthy antioxidants. Based on a similar recipe, I estimate this added up to about 30 calories. 94 cents. 720 S. Atlantic Ave. 410-289-4100.

8.Bull on the Beach steamed shrimp. Lean protein and heart-healthy fat make shrimp a good choice on and off the Boardwalk. Predictably, these were steamed with salty Old Bay seasoning. But since you peel before eating, lots of that sodium stays in the tray.

A half-pound of steamed shrimp has about 250 calories; one-eighth cup of cocktail sauce adds about 50 calories and a whopping 450 mg of sodium. The Old Bay adds enough flavor that you can do without the sauce. I also skipped the creamy coleslaw, whose pale cabbage didn't look nutritious enough to offset the fatty dressing. $9.55 per half pound. 211 N. Atlantic Ave. 410-289-2855.

9.Fisher's popcorn. Popcorn, a whole grain, is a great source of fiber, and the caramel-coated variety here is air-popped, which means no extra fat or calories. Alas, the coating is made with butter, sugar and salt, so I opted for the version seasoned with Old Bay, which was way too salty (and popped in coconut oil).

I wish I had stuck with the caramel; a quick call to Fisher's revealed that a three-quarters-cup serving has 130 calories, 20 from fat. It's another opportunity to share: A small container measures 32 ounces, or roughly four cups. $2.13 for a small. 200 S. Atlantic Ave. 888-395-0335.

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