Bring on the peanuts and Cracker Jack; the Orioles are back at Camden Yards. The ballpark has all the traditional offerings, plus some new ones this year. Alison Massey and Leigh Tracy, registered dietitians at Mercy Medical Center, go over the menu and offer tips on eating healthfully, while still enjoying a treat or two.
Veggies just don't seem like ballpark fare, but is the new bacon-wrapped hot dog a step too far?
Massey: There are definitely some foods that I consider "whoa foods," meaning they might taste great but may not be the best options to eat routinely because they provide little nutrition value and/or are very high in calories and fat. I always encourage my clients to focus on the big picture; one not-so-healthy choice doesn't have to destroy the week. Should you eat a bacon-wrapped hot dog daily? I certainly wouldn't suggest it, but there is a difference between an occasional indulgence and a routine eating habit.
Is it OK to eat a regular hot dog, and what about condiments?
Tracy: A regular hot dog on a bun with mustard and ketchup won't entirely blow your calorie budget, but it can be high in sodium. A crab mac-and-cheese dog, a bacon chili cheese dog or a crab dip dog is a different story. Just one of these with a side of fries can add up to about 1,200 calories. If you plan to attend most of the O's home games this year, try to limit the times you eat one of these extravagant treats.
Tracy: The calories in a sandwich can add up fast, especially if it has salty fries or chips on the side. One way to save money and calories is by splitting it with a friend. Additionally, some places might let you swap out the bread for a lettuce wrap.
Which ballpark snacks are better choices?
Tracy: Shelled peanuts can be a healthy snack choice at the ballpark when consumed in moderation. It takes time to take the nuts out of the shell, which is an easy way to help you slow down and avoid overeating. Aim to get unsalted or lightly salted peanuts.
In general, a soft pretzel contains about 389 calories and over 600 milligrams of sodium, according to the USDA. Instead of eating the entire pretzel yourself, share it with your friends. You could bring your own small bag of hard pretzels or make a mix of unsalted nuts in a bag to increase protein, which helps you stay fuller longer. One of my favorite snacks to share is a small bag of pretzels with Jif's individual peanut butter packets for dipping.
Massey: Staying well-hydrated is always important, and it is a good idea to alternate alcoholic beverages with noncaloric options like bottled water.
Moderate consumption of alcohol is recommended, which means no more than two 12-ounce servings of beer for men and no more than one for women. A good rule of thumb is to alternate your alcoholic beverage with nonalcoholic hydration options like flavored seltzer water or other noncaloric options. If you are hosting a pregame party, creating a festive fruit and herb water bar is a nice way to offer nonalcoholic beverages to guests. Wine spritzers are also a refreshing and lower-calorie alcoholic option for guests at a pregame brunch.
It's not quite as fun, but what about bringing snacks from home?
Massey: Bringing snacks from home is a smart way to save money and make sure that you have some healthy options for the game.
A few of my favorite ballgame snacks include:
Epic Bites: A great alternative to traditional beef jerky, Epic products combine protein like bison with seeds, fruit and spices for flavorful bite-size snacks. Lower in sodium than traditional jerky products, these are great to share. If you don't feel like sharing, Epic also has a line of bars.
Custom trail mix: Homemade trail mix with your favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit and even a little chocolate can be a great way to get some fiber and nutrients during game day. Just remember to watch the portion. If you don't feel like making your own trail mix, consider buying individual portion trail mix packs from Trader Joe's. My favorite is the Omega Trex Mix.
Popcorn: Popcorn can be a fantastic low-calorie snack when prepared the correct way [light on salt and butter]. SkinnyPop Popcorn comes in individual 100-calorie bags that are perfect for game-day.
Fruit: I would suggest fruit options that are easy to transport, like apples, oranges or plums. Fruit cups packed in their own juice or even unsweetened applesauce can be good options. If you bring a soft-sided cooler with ice packs, consider sliced melon or pineapple.
Guacamole or hummus and vegetables: Again, if you pack a soft-sided cooler, consider packing guacamole or hummus with a bag of sliced vegetables and pita chips. Don't have time to make your own guacamole or hummus? Tribe Hummus and Wholly Guacamole are two of my favorite brands.