Healthy Choices: Better-for-You Stadium Foods

Healthier Stadium Food Choices

Headshot of article contributor Allison Knott MS, RD, LDN, Registered Dietitian, Nutrition Communication and Wellness ConsultantBaseball season may be coming to a close, but football season is officially here. That means tailgates, concessions, and plenty of weekends cheering on your favorite team. All that team spirit is likely to work up an appetite. Stadiums aren’t known for their healthy food, but with a little know-how, you can enjoy better-for-you options without depriving yourself of the full sports experience. 

Low angle view of a mid adult man paying for popcorn at the cinema. He is standing at the concession stand paying the customer assistant.

Popcorn vs. Cracker Jacks

You’d be surprised to learn that Cracker Jacks are the better choice here. One, you’re making a smarter choice simply by looking at the portion size. Cracker Jacks typically come in a smaller-portioned box, while popcorn is often served in oversized buckets or bags. Popcorn, when prepared without added salt and fat, is a fiber-filled snack and (bonus!) a whole grain, but when drizzled with melted butter and tossed in popcorn seasoning, this snack quickly becomes one that will send you over the daily recommended amount of sodium and saturated fat.

This is a photograph of three hot dogs on a white plate on a white wooden picnic bench. This is a great image for a Fourth of July picnic with a baseball and bat

Hot Dog vs. Corn Dog

The simple hot dog is the winner here and we’re not talking about the jumbo, bacon-wrapped, deep-fried kind. Just the hot dog, in a bun, topped with mustard. If you’re planning to eat a hot dog while watching your favorite team then stick to the basics. Avoid deep fried versions at all costs and limit toppings to fresh vegetables like diced onions or tomatoes. Remember, hot dogs are a processed meat, a category of meats that when consumed in excess has been linked to serious health outcomes such as gastrointestinal cancer. Knowing this, it’s best to enjoy hot dogs and other processed meats on a limited basis.

A person's hand picking up nacho chips at a baseball ballpark.

Supreme Nachos vs. Loaded French Fries

You’re looking at a tie when it comes to nachos versus fries. Both can pack in well over 1,000 calories. If you’re craving one of these options, make them better by starting with a smaller portion. If possible, ask for shredded cheese versus nacho cheese or request cheese on the side to limit the portion. Skip the chili and add flavor with salsa and fresh vegetables such as chopped tomatoes, peppers, and onions. And, if you’re feeling up for it, skip both. A jumbo pretzel (without cheese and bonus if unsalted) is the lower-calorie, lower-fat option. Dip it in mustard (rather than ketchup) for a flavor kick without the added sugars.

What to drink?

It’s no secret that sugar-sweetened beverages are something to avoid. Luckily, all stadiums offer water and some have flavored sparkling versions to keep your taste buds entertained without the added sugars. By opting for water over calorie-laden, sugar-packed sodas, you can stay hydrated in the heat while also benefiting your body. And, if you’re like many who attend sports games, you may be pairing your water with alcoholic beverages. Stick to low-sugar options such as beer or wine instead of mixed or frozen drinks. Remember to alternate with water to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the game.