Common Barriers to Healthy Eating: Post #2 (the Ballpark)

Common Barriers to Healthy Eating: Post #2 (the Ballpark)

As I mentioned in the last post, I will be creating scenarios in which kids, parents, and other individuals deal with on occasion.  These are the most common situations I hear about from my clients.  Here is case #2…

Case #2: You and your family are at a professional baseball game and you get hungry.  What healthy snack or meal choice would you search for or select?

You’ve heard about ‘em – The big ones.  The ridiculous, artery clogging foods sold at stadiums.  The Krispy Kreme burger found at the minor league Gateway Grizzlies’ stadium in Illinois – a beef patty covered in cheese with two strips of bacon and a split Krispy Kreme donut as the bun. The Homewrecker Dog at the Charleston Riverdogs stadium — a half-pound, foot-long hot dog with up to 25 possible toppings from pimento cheese to jalapenos and from pickled okra to chili cheese.  And the Sonoran hot dog hailing from Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks… a hot dog wrapped in bacon with pinto beans, grilled onions and peppers, tomatoes, relish, tomatillo, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and cheese.

Fear not… not all stadiums are created equal.  This hiccup has become less and less of an issue as baseball stadiums have become health conscious.  For instance 2-3 times a month I find myself sitting behind or next to the dugout at Citizens’ Bank Park in Philadelphia where I never find a problem finding black bean burgers and soy chicken patties with a diet iced tea.  In fact, PETA awarded them best vegetarian stadium.  Yet, when it comes to venturing to the ballpark, it can be confusing as all the great smells and visions of cotton candy are floating around you.

Grabbing drinks… Water and diet sodas are common staples at ballparks now (and so is light beer for those of you of age); in fact, a local minor league stadium in the Lehigh Valley offers milk for children.  It is important to scour the stadium – many stands have different offerings.  You might find smoothies – a great choice and a great way to knock in some fruit servings and your ice cream craving at once.  Try to avoid snow-cones, as they are high in sugar and calories (250 calories per cup).  They may seem like a low-cal option because it is just ice and syrup, but the syrup can definitely add cals as it is very concentrated.  Also, fresh squeezed lemonade isn’t necessarily healthier – it packs a huge sugar punch and is approximately 220 calories per 12 oz.

Onto the snacks… Cracker Jacks don’t seem too harmful, but, they come in at 420 calories for a measly 3.5 ounces.  They also don’t have much substance so most likely you will sit through 9 innings with more than just a box of popcorn.  Cotton candy on a stick provides 105 calories (bagged 210)… and if you got kids, prepare for a sugar rush while trying to confine them in their own seat during the game.  Your best bet is heart healthy nuts like peanuts.  Because you have to break open the shell yourself, it will take longer to eat and the healthy fats are far better than empty calories in Cracker Jacks, Cotton Candy, and other candies.  BUT keep in mind!  An eight-ounce bag has 840 calories, and a 12-ounce bag has 1,260. If you are the type to over-consume, share the bag OR stick with a plain, soft pretzel (5.5 ounces) at about 400 calories — but stay away from those huge pretzels (seven to eight ounces), which have about 700 calories. If your stadium has corn-on-the-cob, this is an excellent choice.  Coming in at 80-100 calories per serving, you won’t do any harm and also, you will nab a serving of vegetables or two.

Onto the stuff with substance… You might want to avoid things that are higher in fat and condiments that cause caloric value to skyrocket.  Avoid fried foods and ones oozing with melted cheese or slabs or mayo.  For example, a plain grilled hamburger is a better option than a hefty cheesesteak (sorry Philadelphia).  Sausage and peppers (sausage is a high-fat meat) won’t do you any good – opt for something with leaner protein and satiety like a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato.  As for hot dogs, a regular hotdog will come in at around 290 calories with the bun, minus the condiments.  But, who typically only eats one hot dog?  Be mindful of the pizza – average stadium slices come in at 435 calories per slice.  Stick to lean and clean protein sources.

Finally – nachos or fries? A 12-ounce serving of super nachos with cheese (40 chips, four ounces of cheese) has more than 1,500 calories. You’re better off with a six-ounce serving of french fries at about 500 calories.

Here are some other tips for when you are venturing out to the ballpark with your family:

  • Eat before you leave home so that you’re not starving when you see the vendors
  • No one said you can’t eat foods at the ballpark – eat the foods you know you love and can’t get very often (I, for example, ADORE the Philly Pretzel Factory pretzel nibs with the honey mustard dipping sauce.  I splurge because I know I only have it occasionally).
  • Bring along healthy snacks like oranges, apples, energy bars, 100-calorie snack packs, etc.  I pack along fruit salad and tuck it in my bag.
  • Be realistic that ballpark food is expensive and spend your money on things that are worth being spent.
  • Watch out for unconscious eating. When you’re focused on the game, you can consume massive amounts of calories without paying any attention.
  • Don’t settle for just one stand – get up and walk around the ballpark.  Not only will you probably stumble upon a great choice for food, but you will also get to take in the game from other parts of the stadium and can get in a few extra steps in your day.

To learn more about stadium foods, visit: