Chowing Down at the Ballpark

by in Dining Out, Healthy Tips, May 26, 2009

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Ballpark food isn’t just about hot dogs and Cracker Jacks any more. Whether it’s the little league field or one of those new pro stadiums, food options have exploded (and so have the calorie counts). Don’t strike out — try these tips.

Strike Outs
Hot dogs and beer are classic ballpark favorites. Nowadays you’ll also find pulled pork panini, BBQ ribs, steaks, pizza, fish tacos, margaritas, Bananas Foster and profiteroles (just to name a few). Sure, it may seem obvious that a cheeseburger with fries may be high in calories and fat, but other menu items like nachos, which average 800 calories and 35 grams of fat per serving, or even a package of roasted peanuts may slip under your junk food radar.

Even foods that may seem healthier — chicken sandwiches and jumbo pretzels — can tip the scales when it comes to sodium, fat and calories. Some grilled chicken sandwiches with mayo or cheese can have as much fat and calories as a large slice of pizza (and that can be anywhere from 500 to 900 calories!).

A 32-ounce beer, which is small for some stadium cups, has almost 300 calories; the same size soda has about 350. Either way, be mindful of your beverage selections. Bottled water can be almost as pricey as soda or beer, but at least it’s got less calories! (Try bringing your own water bottle to refill at the fountains.) If the game won’t be the same without a soda or beer, go for the diet and light options. (And remember to stay hydrated — it gets hot out there in the summer.)

Home Runs
The wisest choice is to eat before the game — that way you save money and calories. But if the food is part of the experience, stick to the basics. Hot dogs (hold the chili and cheese) have about 250 to 300 calories per serving. Some stadiums also offer turkey and veggie dogs — top them with low-fat condiments like ketchup, mustard or relish. Peanuts have about 6 calories a piece and they’ll keep you occupied for most of the game (they take a while to crack open and eat), but remember to share the bag to keep the fat in check. A half-cup of Cracker Jack weighs in at about 120 calories and 2 grams of fat. But you’ll get way more than a half-cup at the park. Again split it with a buddy. If you’re in the mood for dessert, go for frozen yogurt over ice cream or cotton candy.

Many stadiums have committed to offering lighter options, including salads, fruit cups and sushi rolls. There are even a few baseball organizations partnering with local wellness centers to improve menus. Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic established a program to offer healthy options at the Cleveland Indians’ stadium.

Play It Smart
Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Eat before you get there — at home, en route to the stadium or tailgating in the parking lot. You can control your options then.
  • Stick to just a taste — slash calories by sharing with friends.
  • Go light on the beer and soda –- liquid calories can add up fast!
  • Forgo the heavy condiments like mayo, cheese and creamy salad dressings.
  • Keep your mouth occupied with sugarless gum and cheering on your favorite player.
  • Bring a snack. Check ahead to see if you can carry in your own nibbles — like fruit or homemade trail mix.
  • Move around. Don’t just wait for the seventh-inning stretch — get up between innings and walk up and down the bleachers. It will keep you busy and burn off a few calories, too.

TELL US: How do you chow down at the ballpark and still keep things in check?

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