Eating healthy is easy enough at home, but it’s a different story once you head out-especially if your destination is a sporting event. Delicious but unhealthy stadium fare like hot dogs, funnel cakes, nachos and super-sized sodas are almost as a big a draw as the game itself, and they can be hard to resist if you’re watching what you eat.
But more and more sports fans are leaning toward healthier options, and many arenas are taking note-making it more convenient than ever to stay on track in the diet department without sacrificing taste. Here are a few tips for bypassing the classic gut-busters in favor of more waistline-friendly fare at your next sporting event.
Tailgating and Pre-gaming
Tailgating in the parking lot is actually a great opportunity for you to fill up on healthier food before the game-making you less likely to give into temptation in the form of nachos later. So what kind of tailgating foods can you bring that won’t break the diet bank? Opt for handhelds that pack in the protein without tons of carbs and fat. For example, bring a pita stuffed with lean sliced turkey, thinly sliced cheese and your favorite veggies. If you’re in the mood for something warm, opt for chili, which is ultra filling thanks to fiber-rich beans and ground beef, plus metabolism-boosting spices. Chugging water can also help keep you full and satisfied before heading into the stadium, making it less likely that you’ll really want that bucket of cotton candy.
Be sure to check the rules at the stadium when it comes to taking food inside. If your arena allows it, bringing in some carrot sticks, hummus and pretzels to munch on will make it easier to hold off on the yummy but not-so-healthy stuff all around you.
Navigating the Stands
If you can’t tailgate, haven’t eaten anything beforehand, and are just plain hungry heading into the stadium, there are still some ways to avoid destroying your diet. First, chain restaurant stands-like Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Arby’s-are required to post caloric information. Taking a gander at just how much that burger and fry combo will set you back may help you make a smarter meal-time decision.
Even better, avoid the chains and seek out options that fit in with your diet goals-chances are they do exist. An increasing number of venues are freshening up their options, and you’re likely to find more health-conscious snacks like frozen yogurt, salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, and even sushi.
The most important takeaway before actually ordering: Get the lay of the land. Looking at all of your options makes it more likely that you’ll choose a healthy one.
What to Eat
Once you’ve settled on a spot to eat, remember to use all of your healthy knowledge. First, skip alcohol and soda completely. Both contain a lot of sugar and a lot of empty calories that would be better spent with a protein-packed lunch. Secondly, choose healthy sides. If you’re going with a fast food establishment, ditch the fries and grab a side salad, apple slices, baked potato or forego it completely. If you choose a salad, make sure to leave dressings on the side.
If you’re craving “classic” sports fare (like hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts), there are a few things to keep in mind. First, snacks like popcorn and peanuts aren’t horrible for you, but they’re better if you share them. The high sodium content in either isn’t ideal, but sharing can cut down on the calories. Secondly, when it comes to main dishes, try to steer clear of extras. Nachos are most definitely out of the mix when it comes to healthy eating (sorry!), but a burger sans bun can actually be an acceptable option. An even better choice is sausage with peppers and onions (again, no bread) or bratwurst. The fat may be a little higher, but the meat is in a more “natural” form than a hot dog which can contain nitrates. Keep toppings limited-mustard is always a better choice when stacked up against ketchup (full of sugar), relish (often has food coloring), or sauerkraut.
If you’re careful, you can easily keep the scale in your favor when it comes to eating at sporting events. Filling up on water and wholesome meals beforehand can keep cravings at bay later. Of course, if you do choose to eat inside, knowing what to look for and what to avoid will help you have a great time as a spectator and as a diner!
About the Author
Adam Young, the founder of Event Tickets Center, enjoys the food at baseball, basketball and football games almost as much as the events themselves. Over the years, he’s learned how to embrace and enjoy the experience while keeping his diet in check.