While I may not be the world's biggest sports fan, I love going to baseball games for the excitement of the crowd, the people watching, and most importantly: The food! Unfortunately, a recent report released by ESPN has put a damper on it and some of the most sacred American traditions.
The study, released last week, surveyed health inspection reports from all 107 major league sports arenas in North America. The results were not pretty. At more than a quarter of the venues, at least half of food vendors were cited with "major" or "critical" health code violations for everything from improper food temperatures to rodent infestations.
From slime in the ice machine in Tampa Bay to bugs in the margaritas at Sun Lite Stadium in Miami, the problems detailed in the report might be enough to make you think about packing your own ballpark food. Hopefully the ESPN study will motivate ball park vendors to step up their food safety game. Until then, here are some ideas for easily portable substitutes for your favorite stadium foods.
Outside food policies vary by stadium, so check ahead and smuggle at your own risk.
Nachos: If you crave stadium nachos, consider bringing in cheese and crackers as a safer (and healthier) option. A stash of Wheat Thins and a wedge or two of Laughing Cow cheese should hold up well in the heat and satisfy your craving.
Hot Dog: Although it's hard to find an adequate substitute for a ballpark frank, consider bringing in a hot dog bun loaded with pre-sliced beef or turkey pepperoni. You can dress it with the same ketchup or mustard you would put on a traditional hot dog. Wrap the bun in foil, and it's ready to go to the game.
Popcorn: If popcorn is your favorite stadium snack, consider bringing in a safe version. An individual serving bag of pre-seasoned popcorn, such as Indiana Popcorn's Movie Theatre Popcorn, has all of the flavor of stadium popcorn without the risk. Or consider popping your own popcorn at home and adding a seasoning salt designed to produce the stadium flavor, such as this one by Crown Jewel Gourmet Popcorn.
Hamburger: If you can't make it through a baseball game without red meat, consider bringing in a bag of beef jerky. It's easy to pack and packed with protein, and a smoky variety will give you a hint of that fresh-from-the-grill flavor.
Funnel Cake: If the smell of a funnel cake frying is enough to make you momentarily believe food-borne illness may be worth it, plan ahead and come with a powerful substitute. Stop by Krispy Kreme and pick up a fried donut covered with powdered sugar. This substitute may not be any more nutritious than the original, but at least it's less likely to make you sick.
Will this study make you rethink your ballpark food choices?
Image via permanently scatterbrained/Flickr