A Dodger Dog with a side of yogurt?
Opening day at Dodger Stadium means the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, and the smell of . . . Greek salad with olive oil vinaigrette.
It may not be typical ballpark fare, but let’s face it: Sitting for hours with a bellyful of Dodger Dogs and nachos does not a svelte figure make. So, with Monday’s home opener at Dodger Stadium, the culinary wizards there are joining ballparks nationwide in serving up more healthful food.
Not to worry: The meaty, foot-long Dodger Dog hasn’t been replaced. Nor have the nachos. And heaven forbid the beer be taken away.
But these items have some wholesome new neighbors: curried chicken salad made with low-fat mayonnaise, turkey sandwiches on whole wheat, and fruit and yogurt parfaits, all served in the stadium’s three Healthy Plate carts set up on various levels.
The DodgerVision board is even getting in on the act. Keep an eye on the screen for exercise prompts encouraging kids (and willing adults) to move.
Lest you think such measures are unnecessary, consider the calorie count at what could be a typical game. Start with two Dodger Dogs (240 calories each, not including the bun), add a pile of nachos (a typical plate can run up to 1,000 calories), two beers (about 300) and a cup of peanuts (about 300), and . . . no, you don’t really want to do the math.
Sports stadiums around the country are, or have been, making similar moves (Seattle, San Diego and Anaheim have beaten L.A. to the punch), acknowledging that going to a game perhaps shouldn’t be inextricably linked with a food binge.
Low-fat offerings and exercise follow-alongs may seem like sacrilege to fans who think baseball means a hot dog in one hand and peanuts in the other. But to many nutrition experts, this is long overdue.
“I think the world would be a worse place without hot dogs and ice cream,” said James O. Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado in Denver, “but we can’t splurge everywhere. We have to make choices to eat healthier. It sounds to me like these aren’t sacrifices, these are pretty good choices.”
The Dodgers have offered a smattering of items in their Healthy Carts for about three years: Think ordinary raw vegetables (yawn) and hummus (not exactly slim-line at about 400 calories a cup). The turkey wrap might have been healthful had it not been for the cheese. And bacon.
Those items had some takers, but the team’s new partnership with sponsor Kaiser Permanente has pushed efforts up a notch.
“There’s obviously this increasing problem of childhood obesity and lack of activity,” said Yvonne Carrasco, the Dodgers’ assistant public relations director. “We’re a family venue, and this came out of a hope to get these kids more active and healthy.”
There is a slimmer turkey sandwich ($7.50) to replace the wrap, featuring roasted white meat on a whole-wheat roll with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado. Executive Chef Joseph Martin introduced it last week at a tasting at the stadium.
As groundskeepers put finishing touches on the field below, Martin showed off the fresh basil in the Greek salad and the toasted almond slivers in the curried chicken salad. Once heirloom tomatoes are in season, he said, they’ll be front and center in the salads. There will be sushi, too, and fresh fruit skewers.
And the Stadium Club restaurant (open to the public, reservations required) now offers a roasted pear and arugula salad with a pomegranate-chipotle vinaigrette and balsamic maple-glazed salmon.
For the first time, a registered dietitian, also part of the Kaiser link-up, had a hand in fine-tuning the items. The dietitian emphasized “good” fats such as monounsaturated and unsaturated, and limited saturated fats to 10% per serving. Many of the recipes come from Kaiser’s website.
How does the new lineup score, calorie-wise?
By the original recipe, the curried chicken salad ($8.75) weighs in at 313 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving, but the ballpark serving will be a couple of ounces bigger and include a scoop of cottage cheese.
The farmer’s market Greek salad ($8.75) has 130 calories and 11 grams of fat per serving, and the fruit and yogurt parfait ($5.25) with granola topping has 222 calories and 2 grams of fat (both per original recipes).
At first glance, the $5 Dodger Dog (which turns 51 this year) doesn’t look so bad, at 240 calories and 22 grams of fat (without the bun), according to the Farmer John website. But foods like hot dogs and nachos are usually high in cholesterol and saturated fat and are typically eaten in quantity, especially at a long ballgame.
Martin thinks the new items will have a chance among a sea of fat-laden goodies. “I think people are really educated about food,” he said, “and they understand that what they put in their body fuels it. I don’t think we give people enough credit sometimes.”
Kaiser also had a hand in developing the DodgerVision fitness videos, one-minute shorts in which fans can follow simple dance routines as live cameras try to capture the most lively participants. One video will be shown per game.
Though this ballpark food revolution may come down to making a buck, some ballclubs say their efforts stem, at least in part, from a responsibility to the community.
“We do understand that people come [to a game] to get away from life’s problems,” said George Stieren, the San Diego Padres’ business PR director. “But with our public presence comes the responsibility to do what’s right. To be blunt, we’re in San Diego, and we have a large Latino population, and [obesity] hits them harder than anybody.”
This year, the Padres are expanding their FriarFit program (in partnership with the California Endowment and Sportservice, a Petco Park concessionaire), which includes $1.50 healthful menu items for kids such as whole wheat animal cookies, a fruit cup, and 1% milk, plus a FriarFit cart offering fruit salad, sushi, veggie burgers and dogs, and a mandarin salad. This food, too, was created with the help of a nutritionist, from UC San Diego.
On Sundays beginning in June, fans can take part in the Padres-sponsored pregame fitness breaks in the park just outside the stadium.
For the last decade, Mariners fans at Safeco Field in Seattle have been able to choose from veggie burgers and dogs, fruit salad, sushi and steamed edamame, and Caesar salad with salmon (dressing on the side, of course).
And at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, fans have had their pick of healthful concession items such as sushi and salads for several years.
The new Dodger menu is a welcome change to Christine Rodriguez, who attends about three games a month (often with her 6-year-old son).
“I know [the traditional food has] tons of calories, and I don’t feel that well afterward,” she said. “It’s definitely a good thing they’re adding more healthy stuff.”