Stadium Food: Good, Better, and Best Choices

venue for sporting events

It’s football season. How can you possibly not chow down on thousands of calories when there are food vendors or tailgating friends about every 20 feet hawking dogs, barbecue, burgers, and fried everything?

There Are Ways And Then There Are Ways

If you’ve got a will of iron you could ignore the food and drinks. But if you’re tempted at every turn, try to minimize the damage without taking away the fun. If you know you’re going to be having a stadium or concession stand meal, do some thinking, planning, and sleuthing. The best choices are not always the obvious ones. If you always eat sausage and peppers at the stadium or corn dogs from your favorite concession stand, plan for it, have it, and enjoy it.

But give the total picture some thought. Do you need both peanuts and popcorn? Can you make do with a regular hot dog instead of a foot-long? Can you choose the small popcorn instead of the jumbo tub? Can you ditch the soda—or maybe the second one—and replace it with water? 

Make Your Best Choice To Save A Few Calories — Use These Facts As Guidelines:

  • Cotton Candy: Nothing but heated and colored sugar that’s spun into threads with added air. Cotton candy on a stick or wrapped around a paper cone (about an ounce) has around 105 calories; a 2 ounce bag (common size) has 210. A lot of sugar, but not a lot of calories—albeit empty ones.
  • Funnel cake: The fried dough wonder is made by pouring dough through a funnel into cooking oil and deep frying the “funnels” of dough until they’re golden-brown and crispy—then topping the pieces with powdered sugar, syrup, or honey. The calories vary enormously depending on the quantity and toppings. Regardless of the shape, they’re all dough fried in oil topped with a sweetener—which means high calories and low nutrition. You have to figure a minimum of around 300 calories for a 6 inch funnel cake (do they ever come that small?).
  • Cracker Jack (officially cracker jack, not jacks): candy-coated popcorn with some peanuts. A 3.5 ounce stadium size box has 420 calories but it does have 7g of protein and 3.5g of fiber.
  • Hamburger: 6 ounces of food stand beef (they’re not using extra lean—the more fat, the juicier it is) on a bun has about 490 calories—without cheese or other toppings—which up the ante.
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 6 ounces, 280 calories—not a bad choice. 6 ounces of chicken tenders clock in at 446 calories. Barbecue dipping sauce adds 30 calories a tablespoon.
  • Hot Dog: A regular hot dog with mustard has about 290 calories—that’s 180 for the 2 ounce dog, 110 for the bun, zilch for regular yellow mustard. Two tablespoons of sauerkraut adds another 5-10 calories and a punch of flavor, 2 tablespoons of ketchup adds 30, and 2 tablespoons of relish another 40. A Nathan’s hot dog racks up 320 calories; a foot-long Hebrew National 510 calories. A regular size corn dog has around 280 calories.
  • Fried Battered Clams: One cup (5 large clams or 8 medium clams or 10 small clams) has around 222 calories.
  • Pizza: Stadium pizza is usually larger than a regular slice, about 1/6 of a 16-inch pie (instead of 1/8) making it about 435 calories a slice—add calories if you add toppings.
  • Super Nachos with Cheese: A 12 ounce serving (40 chips, 4 ounces of cheese) has about 1,500 calories!!! Plain French fries look like a caloric bargain by comparison.
  • French Fries: A large serving has about 500 calories. A serving of Hardee’s chili cheese fries has 700 calories and 350 of them come from fat.
  • Potato Chips: One single serving bag has 153 calories (94 of them from fat).
  • Peanuts in the Shell: An 8 ounce bag has 840 calories; a 12 ounce bag has 1,260. Yes, they have some protein and fiber. But wow on the calories.
  • Soft Pretzel: One large soft pretzel has 483 calories—giant soft pretzels (7-8 ounces) have about 700 calories.
  • Draft Beer: A stadium draft beer—a 20 ounce cup, the usual size –has about 240 calories. A light draft saves you 60 calories.
  • Coca Cola: A 12 ounce can has 140 calories and close to 10 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Good Humor Ice Cream: Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bar (83g): 230 calories; Toasted Almond (113g): 240 calories; Candy Center Crunch: 310 calories; Low Fat Ice Cream Sandwich, vanilla:130 calories
  • Helmet Ice Cream: Your team’s mini-helmet filled with swirly Carvel, 550-590 calories.
  • Popcorn: FYI—at Yankee Stadium a jumbo size has 1,484 calories and a souvenir bucket has 2,473 calories.
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