How to Survive After a Snack at the Stadium
Stadium food is terribly expensive and unhealthy, but it’s part of the fun of playing ball. And even if you’re trying to diet, you’ll be in the game for a couple of hours – so, as a human, you’ll have to eat something . Here’s how to navigate Jack’s peanut and cracker world.
Best Secret: You Can Pack A Snack
If you’re used to hiding your very own chocolate bar in movie theaters, you might be surprised to learn that you can openly bring an entire lunch to most Major League stadiums as well as many other sporting events. This open secret saves calories and money.
A typical example would allow you to bring at least one bottle of water (plastic and unopened) and a reasonable amount of one meal – so a sandwich is good, but a whole pizza? Not so much. Please read your stadium rules for details. However, all MLB parks prohibit hard-walled coolers and some prohibit throwing fruits such as uncut apples, so take care of what you bring and what you carry.
So if you’re just concerned about surviving the game and not starving to death, bring a sandwich or whatever to make your belly happy. You can even spice up this factory water bottle with a flavoring agent like Mio or Dasani Drops , or check if the rules allow for some delicious seltzer or other soda water .
Go with a plan
If you just walk into the stadium empty-handed, with a vague idea that you are going to “eat healthy food,” do not expect much success. There are many temptations and they are intriguing. For example, PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, boasts a $ 11 hot dog with macaroni and cheese, Jack’s cracker, jalapenos, and caramel sauce . Who can resist this? (Okay, maybe you can, but personally, I’m looking forward to it.)
It’s okay if you like exemplary food; for many of us, this is part of the experience. So, if you’re not happy with a sandwich in the soft-sided refrigerator, decide how you are going to approach the ball game:
- Are you planning to fail by taking a guilt-free evening out of your diet?
- Do you consider it a limited pleasure, scheduling calories elsewhere for a meal?
- Would you take the extra effort to find (perhaps very few) healthy options in the stadium?
Pick a plan and stick to it. To do this, you need to define what you mean: maybe you allow yourself 500 calories of absurdity plus salad. Or maybe you can put together a healthy lunch but buy a few beers.
You can also reduce your hunger before playing by eating something healthy before playing or drinking water . (Don’t forget you can refill this plastic bottle at the fountains.)
Keep track of your portion sizes
Bottomless popcorn is a trap and you know it.
In places with expensive food, such as stadiums and festivals, large portions seem to be really beneficial. You can pay ten dollars for popcorn, but you can eat as much as you like . And to make sure you get your money’s worth, you’ll likely be heading back to the concession counter between feeds to restock.
Obviously, this is a diet breaker. It’s better to plan in advance how much you think you can eat, and eat just that much. If you really want a crackerjack hot dog, share it with a friend. (The bottomless bucket can still be used as accident insurance if you bring kids or drunk friends.)
Here are the typical calorie counts for a popular stadium meal:
- Beer : About 100 calories for light beers, 140 for regular beers.
- Cotton candy : 220 calories (2-ounce pack)
- Hot dog : 300 calories or more , depending on the filling
- Nacho : 346 calories per 6-8 cheese chip serving.
- Inshell peanuts : 300 calories per cup
- Popcorn : 400 calories per 7 cups small to 1500 calories per 20 cups large with butter.
- Soda : About 300 calories per 32-ounce glass
Take advantage of some nutritional psychology: If you go old school with a bag of peanuts, peeling each nut can slow you down enough to feel full faster . However, when it comes to paying attention to how much you eat, you are already at a disadvantage: the distraction encourages you to eat more . This is why your pre-game plan is so important.
Food selection strategy
So what if you show up without a solid plan? Here are some strategies to help you choose the least harmful foods.
- Consider all your options before deciding what to eat. This may take a while – great if you are the early arrival. Walking through all the stalls, you might find that there is a place that serves salads, or a hamburger counter that has veggie burgers or grilled chicken.
- Drink water, not soda. Pepsi and Friends are high in calories and pure sugar. Water (and soda) is both healthier and cheaper, so think seriously. Seltzer and diet soda are good options if you want some soda, but would rather save those calories on a bunch of burgeriza .
- Look for protein. If you opt for a hot dog or chicken sandwich, you will usually stay full longer than if you reduced the same number of calories in fries or popcorn. Fat has this effect too, but it can be higher in calories, so decide if it’s worth it for you.
- Watch out for side dishes and sauces. We know. It’s hard to refuse free sour cream. But if the sauce or side dish isn’t critical to your enjoyment of your meal, consider skipping it or taking quite a bit.
After all, eating out in a stadium is no different from eating out in a restaurant. Just know that you will come to a place with many enticing options and plan accordingly. After collecting snacks and drinking some water, you are already in a better position than if you just wandered around hungry and ignorant. So now you’ll be ready for the next time you hit the old ball game.
Illustration by Sam Woolley