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Game on — and it's your willpower up to bat! We asked nutritionists across the country how to hit concession stands without putting thousands of empty calories on the scoreboard.
Do: Choose Grilled Chicken
These sandwiches are a stadium slam dunk. A ballpark burger can pack up to 500 calories and as many as 10 grams of artery-clogging saturated fat (and that's before cheese and toppings), but the sandwich often comes in at around 300 calories with half the fat.
Do: Get Cracking On Peanuts
Craving popcorn or Cracker Jacks? Opt for plain, unsalted, in-shell peanuts instead, says Chicago dietitian Amari Cheffer, M.S., R.D., LDN. They've got heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E and magnesium—and the act of cracking the shell makes you work a little harder to enjoy them. The catch: A typical eight-ounce bag is much larger than one serving (it can have over 800 calories total), so don't eat more than a quarter of it yourself.
Don't: Sip Sugary Sodas
Save a cool 100-300 calories by sticking to sparkling water, unsweetened iced tea or ice water with lemon. But if a ballgame just isn't the same without soda, don't stress, says New York City-based Marissa Lippert, M.S., R.D. Just order a small size and fill it to the brim with ice. "You're addressing your craving strategically," she says, "since your body won't know you're taking in 10- or 20-percent less soda."
Don't: Get A "Personal" Pizza
Seek out a single slice of plain cheese or veggie instead of devouring a whole personal pan pie-size portion (which packs about 200 additional calories). The 'za can actually deliver heart-healthy benefits, since tomato sauce contains lycopene, an antioxidant. "Interestingly, it's been found to be especially well-absorbed in pizza," says Seattle-based Minh-Hai Tran, M.S., R.D., CSSD.
Do: Be Choosy About Beers
Love your ballpark brews? There's no need to deny yourself, just stop at one or two 12-ounce pours. Choose a low-calorie option like Amstel Light (which has just 95 calories), says New York City-based Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., and author of The New You and Improved Diet. Or sip a stout beer: Guinness is another low-cal brew (you'll get 25-30 calories less than a regular beer) that also happens to be high in antioxidants.
Keep reading for five more do's and don'ts for the next time you are eating at the ballpark!
Do: Lighten Up On The Toppings
One fan's harmless hot dog can be another one's diet strikeout, and the difference is in the topping. A chili cheese dog can contain upwards of 700 calories, while a plain frankfurter should be closer to 300. "Keep condiments relatively clean," says Lippert, "with just mustard and maybe some relish or sauerkraut so at least you're getting some vegetables."
Do: Create Your Own Portion Sizes
Most ballparks offer veggie and turkey versions of burgers and hot dogs, which are almost always a better pick than low-quality stadium beef, says Lippert. But a healthy serving should be about four-to-six ounces, she says, which means you should aim to eat only 1/2 to 3/4 of the concession stand-sized portions. Bonus? Skip the bun to shave off another 100 calories.
Do: Seek Out Salads
Once impossible to find at ballgames, pre-made salads are popping up on concession stand lineups. "Fresh produce is a great source of nutrients at a low calorie cost and a healthy way to stay full at the game," says Glassman. A typical stadium salad has a not-so-bad 200 calories a serving—as long as you avoid creamy dressings and stick with olive oil or a balsamic vinaigrette.
Do: Pick A Parfait
Most ballparks are upping their gourmet options, but trendy foods don't necessarily translate to healthy choices. At Dodgers Stadium, Avanti satisfies her sweet tooth with a strawberry yogurt parfait—a much better option at 222 calories than, say, a chocolate cupcake's 475 calories. "Think to yourself, the amount of exercise I'd need to burn off that cupcake is one hour of climbing steep stairs," she says.
Do: Brave The Sushi
It may not be as American as apple pie, but ballpark sushi is increasingly easier to find, says Glassman. At Yankee Stadium, spicy tuna rolls rack up about 195 calories, and veggie rolls about 160.
Don't: Eat Mindlessly
While noshing, tear your eyes off the game and try to savor each bite. Otherwise, you may find yourself holding an empty container and still feeling unsatisfied. "A number of studies show that eating while distracted results in eating larger quantities of food," says Tran, "And at least one study showed that people who ate while distracted even had a hard time recalling what they'd eaten."
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