Arena Food: Whoa!

It was an incredible 2 days of basketball in St. Louis!  I had never been to a sweet sixteen NCAA tournament before, and I have to admit, it was definitely even more fun than I had imagined it was going to be. I loved watching the crowds:  the fans decked out in the 4 distinct team colors of the rainbow giving the arena splashes of yellow, red, green and purple. Fans were not only sporting new brightly colored T-shirts, but even the men were bedazzled in sparkling beads of the team colors....just totally getting into the games!  And the little girl sitting across the aisle from us with a brand new NCAA Final Four basketball...I mean, could her life get any better? Maybe she'll play in one of these games some day...

The games were great---all three so close and so well played. If you were rooting for a particular team, you lost your nails in St. Louis.  I was amazed at the behavior of the fans.  With only a couple of exceptions, they allowed the opposing team to have their turn to cheer with their cheerleaders and pep bands without trying to drown them out.  Good sports, even when their team lost.  No yelling of obscenities, they just took it in stride and I like to think they were just proud their team was there.  I kept thinking I would like to see more of this on the courts and on little league fields when things get out of hand....

There was one troubling sight, however:  the arena food. And it came with plenty of intense aroma, too. Whoa!  Foot long hot dogs, corn dogs, giant containers of French fries sagging over the edges of the box, coconut oil laden tubs of popcorn, steak'n cheese sandwiches, BBQ pork sandwiches, huge platters of nachos, candy in movie theatre box sizes, cotton candy, Cracker Jacks....and sodas that sold for $5.25 each (water did, too.)  The lines were longer for the food than for the T-shirts (of course, the shirts were more expensive, and if you were hungry, the shirt wouldn't help much...)

Recurring Theme at the Food Stands: Feeding Your Body for "Non-Health"
  • High Fat
  • High Saturated Fat (evil stuff)
  • High Sodium
  • Low Fiber, except popcorn which was adulterated
  • Few healthy offerings: No fruit,veggies, or yogurts in sight
I should also mention I noticed many, many fans who were stretching out their  XXL T-shirts in a very unhealthy way.  Eating lots of arena food once in a lifetime probably won't make or break your long term health goals, but was it too much of a coincidence of body size and all that food?

I just have a few thoughts to share....
  • Eat a healthy meal before you go to the ball games.  If you plan on eating there, you can just picture your arteries filling up with saturated fats and reacting to a sodium overload...good thing there are great hospitals nearby!
  • If you want a special treat food there, pick one to have.  Take it back to your seat.  Sit, eat and enjoy.  Stop when you are full.   You don't have to finish it!  Better yet, share it with someone: those portions are killers. (Literally?)
  • Buy the water.  You can't bring in your own, so just buy it.  I know it costs too much, but you need to stay hydrated, and your body will thank you.  Sometimes people confuse hunger and thirst signals, and you don't want that to happen here!
  • I brought in Kashi bars, Emerald mini packs of almonds, and Archer Farms real fruit strips to share.  Yes, they searched my purse, and saw them in there, and nodded me on in.  (No alcohol, so I was good!) My snacks helped so much when everyone around us were going nacho on us!
  • I would like to encourage arena food suppliers to sell yogurt, granola bars (why not Kashi bars?) mini packages of nuts, and mini boxes of raisins... What about a low fat chicken sandwich on whole grain bread? Just try selling these for the sake of the health of all these people you want to keep coming to your big tournaments!  Who knows?  It may help keep them healthier and active longer, so that they can come, buy tickets and T-shirts for decades to come.  
And.....On we go to the Final Four!!  How are your picks doing?

As carefully as you picked your teams for the Final Four, 
Remember to pick/choose your food to feed yourself well, too!

To your health!