If you think about it, it’s kind of strange that thousands of people gather in stadiums to watch the world’s fittest human beings attempt daring feats of speed and strength, and as they do, they scarf down … giant plates of nachos. Topped with brisket. And served with a side of ice cream. And who knows what else.
Well, all that’s starting to change. Just as the country in general is rediscovering the power of eating real food, your favorite sports arenas are coming around, too. Baseball is leading the way, in part because there’s a financial incentive to do so. (More home games in a season plus more natural breaks in the action equals more opportunities to sell food. And when customers are demanding healthier eats, ballparks are going to find a way to sell them.) But even football, our most staunchly old-school team sport, is getting in on the action with almost comically good-for-you options like chickpea curry (looking at you, 49ers).
Given all this, it seemed like a good time to round up some of the healthiest stadium food options in the country. Just remember: If for some reason your favorite team or stadium didn’t make the cut, don’t fret. A) They probably sell something great for you that we didn’t have the virtual space to include. B) Even if they don’t, you can still stick to your diet by getting, say, a grilled chicken sandwich, or a grab-and-go salad. Oh, and don’t forget to hydrate. Most stadiums let you bring your own water and refill the bottle at water fountains. Because nothing is worse than spending six bucks on a plastic bottle of water.
And now, without further ado …
1. THE CHICKPEA CURRY AT LEVI’S STADIUM, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
200-300 calories (est)
At the 49ers state-of-the-art stadium, you can skip the lines by ordering food using a customized mobile app. When you do, consider the chickpea curry at the helpfully named Curry concession stand. The Indian staple is full of protein and fiber yet light on calories. If the thought of ordering stadium-made curry gives you pause, consider a vegan burger, available throughout the park.
2. FRESH SUSHI AT THE STAPLES CENTER, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
In keeping with the city’s health-obsessed image, the home to the Lakers, Clippers and hockey’s Kings, offers a range of diet-conscious options, including beet salads and gluten-free beer. Our pick: the sushi, which (unlike most stadium-food sushi) is made fresh on-site. It’s not the absolute lightest option (did we mention the beet salad?), but it’s loaded with vitamins and omega-3’s.
3. SALAD AT THE AMALIE ARENA, TAMPA, FLORIDA
It still feels anachronistic to find a salad bar at a sports arena, and it might never really feel right to chow down on mixed greens at a hockey game. Still, this is unique: The salads at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s arena are made with greens sourced from the arena’s own hydroponic garden. In fact, the garden supplies produce for much of the stadium’s concessions vendors, so even if you don’t want to hit the salad bar, you’ll still eat something fresh — and freshly picked produce tends to be more nutrient-rich.
4. GRILLED VEGETABLE VEGAN PANINI AT ANGEL STADIUM, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
300 calories (est)
Another win for Angelenos: A light pressed sandwich loaded with mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes and pesto sauce. There’s also a vegan Chicago dog if you prefer something more (faux-)meaty (and more traditionally baseball-friendly).
5. VEGGIE KEBABS AT TARGET FIELD, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA
300 calories each
These are probably the healthiest thing ever sold at a concession stand called ‘State Fair Classics.’ Expect plenty of squash, peppers and pesto on this nutrient-rich alternative to meat-on-a-stick at the Twins’ home stadium. Better yet, after a miserable few seasons, the team actually seems watchable again.
6. GRILLED SALMON BLT AT CENTURYLINK FIELD, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
860 calories (est)
With calories, sometimes it’s about quality, not quantity. So while this sandwich isn’t the lightest option, it is rich in good fats and omega-3’s, thanks to the salmon that anchors it. The biggest challenge? Placing your order over the Seahawks’ notoriously high-volume crowd.
7. HAND-CARVED ROASTED TURKEY SANDWICH AT AT&T PARK, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
As with turkey’s biggest day (that would be Thanksgiving), you’re starting with a lean meat, and where things go from there is largely up to you. Smother it with gravy? Then yeah, you’re not really embracing the spirit of this list. Go with a half-sandwich and go easy on the dressing? Then you’re likely hitting that roughly 500 calorie sweet spot. (And King Street Carvery is happy to serve it to you that way.) Fun fact: As with Tampa, there’s an on-site garden at AT&T Park. The garden manager plants black and orange tomatoes to show support for the home team.
8. CURRIED CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAP AT DODGER STADIUM, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
300 calories (est)
We know: Another option from Southern California. What can we say? The city’s leading the way on the health front. (That said, this is the same stadium that serves the Doyer Dog, a gut-busting, nacho-hot dog hybrid that’s better searched for in Google images than explained.) And besides, you’re not likely to find a lettuce wrap — especially one as deliciously veggie-loaded as this one, which comes with radishes, cucumber and cherry tomatoes — anywhere else.
9. VEGETABLE LO MEIN AT BUSCH STADIUM, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
300 calories (est)
“Buy me some peanuts and veggie lo mein…” OK, so those might not be the lyrics, at least not yet, but the Cardinals are serving surprisingly legit lo mein from a handful of stir-fry carts throughout their stadium. Washing them down with the stadium’s namesake drink is your call, of course.