Stadium-Food Calories Can Be a Losing Game

Fall is nearly here, and the sporting season is full throttle.

If you’re a fan of stadium sports – baseball, basketball, hockey and football – then you’re most likely a fan of the traditional stadium foods. The foot-long and the icy-cold-one are an integral part of the experience, right?

The only problem is that a game’s worth of snacks and beverages can quickly sabotage a healthy nutrition plan and pack on the calories.

I’m not a fan of counting calories. However, it’s good to know about the calories that occur outside of your normal eating plan. Having this knowledge helps you avoid blind spots and make better decisions around some of your favorite foods when eating out.

Take note of the calories in these stadium beverage selections:

12 ounce beer = 120-180 calories

12 ounce light beer = 70-125 calories

1 shot (1.5 ounces) 80-proof rum = 100 calories

4 ounces red or white wine – 80 calories

Clearly the better options are light beer and wine, since the shot of liquor may also include high-sugar mixers. Please note that the draft beer served at stadiums comes in 20-ounce cups, making over 200 calories.

Now lets look at food choices:

Small popcorn with butter = 580 calories, 47 grams fat (72% of daily recommendations)

Medium popcorn w/o butter = 650 calories, 43 grams fat (66% of daily recommendation)

Cotton candy on a stick = 105 calories

Cracker Jack = 420 calories

6-ounce hamburger with a bun = 490 calories

6-ounce grilled chicken sandwich = 280 calories

4-ounce turkey burger  = 147 calories

Wrap sandwich (6 ounces)  = 345

Six ounces of chicken tenders = 446 calories, not including the barbecue dipping sauce

(Did you know: Most sold-out stadiums sell as many as 16,000 hot dogs a day!)

Regular hot dog w/bun = 290 calories: 180 for the 2-ounce dog, 110 for the bun, and virtually no calories for regular yellow mustard.

Foot-long hotdogs = 580 calories

Pizza at the stadium is a bit larger than a typical slice  = 435 calories per slice.

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 fries, which is still a whopping 500 calories.

Peanuts8-ounce bag = 840 calories, and a 12-ounce bag = 1,260 calories

The popcorn that comes in a huge tub  = 1,500 calories – that ‘s my total intake of calories in a day!

Soft pretzel (5.5 ounces) = 400 calories –and stay away from those huge pretzels (7-8 ounces), which have about 700 calories.

Here’s the deal on snow cones…a 12-ounce snow cone has only 120 calories.  Yes, low in calories, but LOADED with unhealthy dyes and sugar, so I’d much rather you spend more calories on something like peanuts, a pretzel or unbuttered popcorn – choices that don’t contain the harmful food colorings.

What about healthier options?

The best option is to eat a healthy meal ahead of time, or to opt for the lower-calorie options above. Be mindful of how two beers, a hot dog, and small buttered popcorn totals 1,230 calories. With that, choose the healthy wrap sandwich and skip the beer and wine, or keep it to one glass.

Today, many stadium food-service providers, such as Aramark, offer healthier options. For instance, at Atlanta’s Turner Field, you can buy freshly made salads; at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium there’s corn on the cob; at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards, you can find fruit smoothies; and at Boston’s Fenway Park, enjoy a fresh fruit salad. There are even veggie hot dogs and burgers at Oakland’s McAfee Coliseum and baked potatoes at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park at North Shore. (Source:

Helpful Tips:

  • Eat before you leave home so that you’re not starving when you see the vendors selling enticing treats.
  • Share the snacks to share the calories.
  • Watch out for unconscious eating. When you’re focused on the game, you can consume large amounts of calories without paying any attention to your full-cues.
  • Don’t eat directly from the bag — ask the concessionaire for an extra container or plate and split things up.

Once you start paying attention to your choices, you can enjoy the game and not have any regrets the next day. Have fun this season!

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