Take Me Out to the Ball Game - With Heart Health in Mind

You have a recovering cardiac patient who loves baseball and the ballpark food that goes with it. So what is your patient to do?

OK, my kind cardiologist. You have a recovering cardiac patient who loves baseball and the ballpark food that goes with it. Those hot dogs, french fries, sausage sandwiches, all out-of-bounds on a cardiac diet. So what is your patient to do? Sit there with a bottle of water while his family or friends feast on the stadium cuisine?

The picture, as in many other situations, is not all that bleak for the heart-healthy eater. In my travels to various stadiums the past few years, I’ve actually been impressed with what is being offered to fans who watch their diets for this reason.

One doesn’t see this at just the big-league parks, either. Many Minor League Baseball teams have gotten in step with the diet-conscious fan.

“It’s important to us to have those types of offerings in our concession stands,’’ said Brad Taylor, the general manager of the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate and one of the most successful minor-league teams in the nation.

“We realize many of our fans have special needs and we offer them a variety to choose from.’’ Taylor added.

The Thunder always have had choices such as grilled chicken, a cardiac dieter’s stadium staple, on the menu along with some salads, but matters have really expanded over the past few years. A special “Heart Healthy Menu,’’ with a sponsor is now available at every game.

I spent part of Tuesday night at Trenton’s Waterfront Park sampling some of the heart-healthy offerings while the Thunder battled the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in an exhibition game.

One of the new items is a gardenburger, which I was encouraged to try in lieu of my usual grilled chicken sandwich. I had already opened with a fresh salad — caesar dressing on the side - another old favorite.

I was told the gardenburger has some egg product in it in addition to the vegetarian ingredients — the Thunder concession staff getting high marks for thinking of that, considering I limit my intake of eggs.

Fruit offerings are also available in addition to several other salads. So, for sure in this ballpark and dozens more, it’s good to say, the cardiac diet is respected:

  • If you are in the Philadelphia area and visit Citizens Bank Park, Rick's Steaks is pushing out veggie cheesesteaks. Just go very easy on the cheese, which adds fat. Planet Hoagie has the Vendura, an all-vegetarian wrap stuffed with roasted eggplant, broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and cheese, which can be deleted on request.
  • Several stadiums offer a turkey burger, a healthy alternative to the classic hamburger.
  • Some of the healthiest ballpark food can be found in San Diego’s Petco Park, where fruit and granola cups, turkey wraps, pita chips, hummus and several salads are sold.
  • If you happen to be watching a game in San Francisco’s AT&T Park, opt for many of the lighter offerings, including the fish taco.

The teams are indeed making an effort. Millions are watching their diets due to cardiac concerns. Cardiologists and their patients can now eat and enjoy in healthy fashion.

If you are attending a game at your local ballpark, and have the concerns mentioned, talk to a representative of your home team. In most cases, they have been willing to add items meeting the cardiac dieter’s requirements.