Digestion goes to the (hot) dogs

“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, I don’t care if I ever get fat.”

OK, maybe that’s not the tune most of us baseball fans will be singing at the ballpark, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind before biting into another hot dog, cheese-laden nacho or chocolate malt.

For some, the amount of food, and calories, at major league baseball stadiums might be hard to digest. According to an Associated Press story, a single hot dog and 20-ounce soda contain about 530 calories, in addition to loads of fat and sodium.

Although the story mentions that some stadiums have tried salad bars, fruit cups and garden burgers, it seems these options might not be economically feasible to catch on in some major league markets.

And economics, in fact, provide a good illustration of what’s, in part, helping to fuel obesity and other poor health conditions in “markets” across the U.S.

A variety of factors can contribute to obesity, including vitamin and mineral deficiency, poor sleep and individual choice. But our environments, whether we’re in inner-city neighborhoods, public schools or ballparks, can also add weight to the issue.

There’s been a lot written about how poorer neighborhoods often lack grocery stores and in some cases carry higher-priced and less-nutritious options, including limited availabilities of fresh fruits and vegetables.

But, as Annie, Ray Kinsella’s wife says in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams”:

“What’s it got to do with baseball?”

Maybe not a lot, as baseball and the sometimes calorie-dense decisions that come with watching it probably poorly represent society’s eating practices. Baseball, after all, offers an escape from some of the concerns of life, letting some of us take a holiday from healthful fare.

However, it could be argued that not everything that happens in the ballpark, stays in the ballpark. If we create an environment bent on binge eating and cheap calories, then it’s likely to reflect on other parts of our lives, especially in the lives of children.

For example, a study from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia found rates of obesity among children were down by more than 50 percent in schools that had $100-per-student nutrition programs, according to Reuters. That was compared with schools that had no, or only basic, nutrition programs.

Education on proper diet and nutrition – now that’s something to send children home with.

(Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared as a column in The Packer newspaper.)

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