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The Diet Detective
Sports-stadium food: Call a time out before you wolf down those nachos
Whether you go to watch football, hockey or basketball, there's nothing like spending the day at the stadium. Part of the fun, of course, is the food. Some stadium snacks are healthier than others, so here's the lowdown on what you need to know:
Cracker Jack vs. cotton candy
Cotton candy is just sugar that's been heated, colored and spun into threads with added air. Cotton candy on a stick (about 1 ounce) has 105 calories, but when bagged (2 ounces), it has double that number. Cracker Jack is basically candy-coated popcorn with some peanuts thrown in. A stadium-size box has 3.5 ounces and 420 calories, so cotton candy is clearly a better deal. If you must buy the Cracker Jack, however, at least the box has 7 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber.
Hamburger vs. chicken sandwich
A 6-ounce hamburger has about 490 calories without even counting cheese or toppings. A 6-ounce grilled chicken sandwich has only 280 calories — a much better deal.
Another alternative, and an even healthier choice, is the 4-ounce turkey burger offered at some stadiums. At only 147 calories, it's a great bargain.
Chicken tenders vs. wrap sandwich
A typical wrap sandwich (6 ounces) has 345 calories and is usually the smarter choice, depending on the ingredients. Six ounces of chicken tenders, on the other hand, have 446 calories, not even including the barbecue sauce, which can have as much as 30 calories per tablespoon.
Hot dog vs. pizza vs. sausage and peppers
A regular hot dog with mustard is your best bet, totaling about 290 calories: 180 for the 2-ounce dog, 110 for the bun and virtually no calories for regular yellow mustard. Sauerkraut adds another 5-10 calories (2 tablespoons), ketchup adds 30 (2 tablespoons) and relish another 40 (2 tablespoons). Just be aware of the foot-long hotdogs sold at many stadiums, which can have double the calories in both frankfurter and bun, bringing the grand total to 580 without any toppings. Pizza at the stadium is a bit larger than a typical slice, about one-sixth of a 16-inch pie (rather than one-eighth), which comes to 435 calories per slice. And the sausage-and-pepper sandwich is about the same — 430 calories for 5 ounces, including the bun.
Super nachos vs. fries
A 12-ounce serving of super nachos with cheese (40 chips, 4 ounces of cheese) has more than 1,500 calories — wow! You're better off with a 6-ounce serving of french fries, at about 500 calories. Corn on the cob, however, is your best option — 80 calories for the corn and about 100 calories for the butter topping. You could even have two (360 calories) and still save 140 calories.
Peanuts in the shell
vs. popcorn vs. soft pretzel vs. fruit cup
Stadiums sell as many as 6,000 bags of peanuts on a game day, depending on attendance. The only problem is that an 8-ounce bag has 840 calories, and a 12-ounce bag has 1,260. The upside is that peanuts are high in magnesium, vitamin E, niacin, folate and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. The popcorn comes in a huge tub, often heaping with more than 120 ounces of popcorn at roughly 1,500 calories. Your best deal is a plain, soft pretzel (5.5 ounces) at about 400 calories — but beware of those huge pretzels (7-8 ounces), which have about 700 calories. However, your best bet, and definitely the healthiest choice, is a 6-ounce fruit cup — only 80 calories.
Snow cone vs. draft beer vs. soda
Even though snow cones use about 1-2 ounces of flavored syrup (at almost 60 calories an ounce), they aren't too bad compared with other game-time snacks: a 12-ounce snow cone has as many as 120 calories. Beer is not that bad, either, but the draft beer served at the stadium often comes in 20-ounce cups, which means about 240 calories. Get a light draft if you can, and you'll save 60 calories for a 20-ounce serving. Soda is definitely not a bargain at about 230 calories for 20 ounces.
• Eat before you go, so you're not starving when you see the vendors selling enticing treats.
• If the stadium allows it, bring along supplemental healthy snacks such as oranges, apples, energy bars, 100-calorie snack packs, etc.
• Share the snacks — which shares the calories.
• Be realistic about what you buy — don't overbuy just to have extra.
• Watch out for unconscious eating. When you're focused on the game, you can consume massive amounts of calories without paying attention.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, author of Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Copyright, 2006, by Charles Stuart Platkin.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company