Baseball season is back (thanks be to the baseball gods). Unlike football, it’s not really a tailgating kind of sport. Traditionally, you buy and eat your food inside the ballpark. And, per centuries-old custom, that usually means hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, nachos, ice cream, Cracker Jacks, and beer. Because you’re watching the game while you nosh, it’s a perfect example of mindless eating, which means you might very well be shoveling in hundreds (maybe thousands) more calories than you ever realized or intended. This is not to demonize traditional ballpark food—it’s all part of a treasured American experience. In fact, a regular (not foot-long) hot dog with ketchup comes to roughly 315 calories (though the 990 milligrams of sodium racks up almost a third of your daily sodium allowance). But if you’re up for some healthy alternative, there’s good news: Ballparks around the country have started to add lighter, more nutritious fare to their offerings.
1) Seek out better food. Menu items vary from stadium to stadium, of course, but most venues now offer some vegetarian options to standard far, like veggie burgers and veggie cheesesteaks. Grilled fish sandwiches are served up at some coastal ballparks, and grilled chicken sandwiches (go easy on mayo and cheese) are clearly a better option than fried chicken sandwiches. And then there’s sushi. (Not to denigrate ballpark sushi vendors, who I’m sure aim to put out the best product they possibly can, but let’s just say, caveat emptor.)
2) Do some research on the stadium’s options. There’s a salad bar at Coors Stadium in Denver, a low-cal turkey wrap at Fenway in Boston, and fruit cups at a number of forward-thinking ballparks.
3) Control your portions. Peanuts are a healthier alternative to sugar-coated Cracker Jacks, but just don’t eat the whole bag yourself—a 12-ounce package of peanuts weighs in at about 1,200 calories.
4) Hydrate properly. Of course you’re going to want beer, no sin in that. Try a light version of your usual brand, and make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after: ballparks are steamy hot in the summer, and proper hydration is essential.