Baseball is one of America’s great pastimes, and you might be looking forward to attending a few games this summer.

Baseball is one of America’s great pastimes, and you might be looking forward to attending a few games this summer. If so, chances are you will head to the concession stand at some point. A baseball game just wouldn’t be the same without something to munch on. But, eating healthy at a ballpark can be difficult. It’s no secret that most concession stands seem to specialize in fried foods, sugary snacks and cheese-covered everything. Following is food for thought on some typical ballpark fare.

Hot Dog: The average hot dog (with bun) has 464 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 1064 mg sodium, depending on the condiments you add. Bet you didn’t know you were also getting 7 grams of sugar in that hot dog. One hot dog isn’t a diet buster, but few people consider just one hot dog a meal, and that’s where we get into trouble.

Soft Pretzel: Pretzels don’t have much fat, so how bad could they be? One soft pretzel has around 488 calories. The salted version can add as much as 2,000 mg sodium. And, that doesn’t count any of the sauces to dip it in. Two ounces of cheese sauce will add 160 calories, 816 mg sodium; caramel will add 173 calories with 25 grams of sugar; leaving marinara as the best choice with just 45 calories for 2 ounces.

Popcorn: Popcorn has fiber and is often recommended for a healthy snack. But, concession stand popcorn is the exception. A small popcorn of around 9 cups has 575 calories, 35 grams of fat and 980 mg sodium. Compare this to 9 cups of unbuttered, air-popped popcorn for 300 calories. Cracker Jacks might be a better choice: a 1.25 ounce package has just 150 calories.

Cheeseburger: You’d have to walk for more than two hours to burn off the 450 calories and 23 grams of fat in a typical stadium cheeseburger. Not to mention the 1,250 mg sodium.

Pizza: An individual 6″ pepperoni pizza will add 660 calories to your menu. It also exceeds your daily recommended limit for saturated fat and supply you with 1,870 mg sodium.

Nachos and cheese: A single serving consisting of around 40 chips and ¼ cup of cheese has 1,100 calories, 50 grams of fat and 1,580 mg sodium. This makes nachos a pretty hefty side dish.

Peanuts: Peanuts in the shell are heavily salted and pack a lot of calories. Four cups or 8 ounces adds up to 1,280 calories, plus more than 1,500 mg sodium.

Beer: If you can limit yourself to two beers, two bottles of Budweiser will set you back 290 calories.

If you agree part of the fun of watching a baseball game is the food, check out these tips to help avoid binging on ballpark calories.

Eat something before going to the ballpark so you aren’t starving when you get there.

Check out the healthier options. Many stadiums now offer fruit cups, low-fat frozen yogurt, salads and deli sandwiches. A good choice at Busch Stadium is the smoked corn on the cob dipped in garlic butter for just 150 calories.

Decide what you really want to eat before you get in line. This will help prevent temptation and impulse buys.

Go easy on the beer and regular soda. It’s too easy to drink a lot of calories. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions and makes you more likely to eat more than you normally would.

Bank a few extra calories earlier in the day by eating smaller meals and snacks before heading to the ballpark.

Find out what, if any, foods can be brought into the ballpark and consider bringing along some of your own snacks. Fresh fruit, raw veggies, air-popped popcorn or bottled water are good items to consider.

If you do splurge, just cut back a little for the next couple of days then resume your usual healthy eating plan.

Sneak in a little exercise before the game to help burn off any extra calories.


Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the cardiac rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.