Nutrition student advises against indulgent football game concessions

Stacey Arnold

Football season is here! I want to make sure that I fuel myself for a long day of tailgating and cheering. With all of the new concession options at DKR and when I travel off to away games, how can I enjoy football stadium food without the diet penalties? — Gridiron Gal

We’ve entered into the best part of the year: football season.  Football games are day-long events — come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange — and naturally, all of the cheering will have you working up an appetite. So read on for a game-day game plan.

Before I get into food, let me give a pep talk on refreshments: drink water. Now that alcohol is served at Texas athletic events, the 21-and-up crowd has more beverage options to choose from. Bear in mind, alcohol is a mild diuretic, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and dehydration from alcohol combined with the Austin heat could be dangerous. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to grab a water bottle. Stay on top of your hydration status and start drinking water early in the day.

If halftime has you hungry, nachos are “nacho” best choice unless you’re looking for sodium and saturated fat. Note that many concession stands use cheese sauce — not necessarily real cheese.  “Cheese” is pretty far down on the ingredients list of some nacho cheese products. This means there is less authentic cheese by weight than other ingredients such as cheese whey (a byproduct of cheesemaking), partially hydrogenated oils (eek!) and modified cornstarch.  

A better option is a standard-size hot dog. But, not the foot long! Coming in around 300 calories and 16 grams of fat, regular hot dogs are a lower-calorie choice compared to fried chicken tenders. A four-piece basket of chicken tenders totals 460 calories with over 30 grams of fat — that’s not even counting the dipping sauce! Top your dog with mustard or relish, which contain hardly any calories, instead of cheese or chili.

If you really want to win big, feast on a six-inch grilled chicken or turkey sandwich. Order it without cheese, bacon and creamy dressings, and each sandwich comes in at around 300 to 400 calories with little saturated fat — 0.5 to 2 grams. Instead of mayo, honey mustard or ranch, choose mustard or light mayo to limit calorie intake. And don’t be shy about veggies; they are low in calories and high in fill-you-up fiber.

Don’t fumble with funnel cakes. Deep-fried and sprinkled with more than just a spoonful of sugar, just one cake has 700 calories and 40 grams of fat, according to ABC News. Think about it this way: Over half of the funnel cake’s calories come from fat. The 2010-2015 Dietary Guidelines suggest that only 20 to 35 percent of calories come from fat per day for college-aged kids.

But if you do want to snack on something sweet, go with a snow cone. With 90 calories per ounce, snow cones are lower in calories than ice cream and contain no saturated fat. Keep in mind, however, that the syrup is just sugar water, so stick to a small.

Keep these plays in your back pocket, and you’ll be set up for a successful season. Go navigate game day like a pro and intercept unhealthy concession cravings before they start. That’s a touchdown, Texas!