Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Rooting for the home team doesn't have to mean running afoul of your diet

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Take me out to the ball game ... and it's one, two, three strikes, your eating healthy plan is out! Or is it?

To me, baseball is synonymous with summer. My family goes to a handful of games each season -- it's tradition! I make sure we go to one of the fireworks games because they never disappoint; each year the fireworks show is more spectacular than the last.

So when we're at the ballpark, can we still score a run with our healthy eating goals?

Well, it's easier now than ever, as baseball stadiums around the country are offering healthier concession options ranging from vegetable soup to roasted turkey legs to sushi. It doesn't have to be all about hot dogs anymore!

I surveyed four well-known ballparks across the country to uncover some of the healthier items on their menus. I also asked what their most popular food items are, and if they had noticed any recent trends in fans' concession purchasing habits. Here's what I found out:

SBC Park (home of the San Francisco Giants)

Healthier options (some of these items are only served at the "club" level):

  • Portabella mushroom sandwich
  • Greek salad with light Greek vinaigrette (served in a flatbread)
  • Grilled summer vegetable skewers
  • Lemon garlic marinated skinless chicken breast (served with Bermuda onions on a cornmeal Kaiser bun)
  • Lower-fat hot dogs and veggie dogs
  • Granola and yogurt parfait (made with whole-milk organic yogurt, blended with vanilla and coconut and layered with granola and blackberry compote)
  • Fresh fruit (served in the Farmers Market section)

Most popular items:

  • The Portabella mushroom sandwich and grilled summer vegetable skewers (see above)
  • Strawberry shortcake (strawberry puree blended with brown sugar is drizzled over homemade biscuits and topped with fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream)
  • Garlic fries
  • Hot dogs

Recent trends:

  • "Whole" unprocessed and organic foods are becoming more popular
  • But "hearty foods" are going strong (SBC has a new, very popular Irish Pub)

Safeco Field (home of the Seattle Mariners)

Healthier options: (some are sold in the "health hut" in Safeco Field)

  • Veggie dogs
  • Gardenburgers
  • Vegan soups
  • Caesar salad (there are a couple of reduced-fat dressings to choose from at the "club" level of the stadium)
  • Blackened salmon Caesar salad
  • Hummus platter

Most popular food items:

  • The Major League Mariners' Hot Dog
  • Ivar's Fish & Chips
  • Pizza

Recent trends:

  • A big shift toward light domestic beers

Shea Stadium (home of the New York Mets)

Healthier options:

  • California roll (sushi made with cooked crab and avocado) and shrimp roll
  • Chicken parmesan pizza
  • New York-style cheese pizza

Most popular items:

  • Italian sausage with onion and green peppers, served in a bun
  • Chicken tenders and fries
  • Hot dogs

Ameriquest Field (home of the Texas Rangers)

Healthier options:

  • The "Kids Stand" area offers fresh fruit, fruit juice, and milk
  • The stadium smokehouse serves turkey legs
  • Chicken Caesar salad with a light dressing
  • Fresh soft pretzels
  • Cheese pizza

Most popular food items:

  • Jumbo hot dogs
  • Pretzels
  • Garlic fries
  • Smokehouse brisket

Recent trends:

  • Low-carb cola, beer, salads, and wrap sandwiches are more popular

I was thrilled to see that many ballparks are making an effort to offer more healthful concession options. The standards, like hot dogs and French fries, aren't going anywhere -- but isn't it nice that there is room on the menu for veggie kabobs, light Greek salads, Gardenburgers, and sushi?

The way I see it, there are four basic keys to more healthful ballpark dining:

1. Choose the lower-fat, lower-calorie concession selections.

Every time you buy something at a ballpark, you are placing a vote to the management, telling them what you like to see on the menu. Shea Stadium added a Gardenburger to its menu last year, but it was taken off for this season due to insufficient sales.

So if your stadium offers a healthful menu option, show them that you are all for it -- order that instead of the hot link sandwich.

2. BYOP (Bring Your Own Produce)

Fruits and vegetables are much better to mindlessly munch than peanuts, chips, Cracker Jacks, etc. With their high fiber and water content, they help fill you up so you will be less likely to overeat ballpark fare.