Dave Shaw
Performance nutritionist, clinical dietitian and health expert, Dave does his best to make sense of what we eat.

Dave Shaw: Snacking at sport - how to avoid health hazards

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Eating at sporting games isn't the same as eating for sport - even though putting in a full day’s shift as a spectator can be rather exhausting. Health expert, Dave Shaw, shares tips on how to avoid a blow out during your time in the stands.

Another summer of cricket is coming up.Photo / Creative Commons
Another summer of cricket is coming up.Photo / Creative Commons

Snacks are meant to be just that - a snack. Though, we could start calling them a meal between two feasts with the amount we now eat. How on earth is anyone to survive the four hour gap between breakfast and lunch?

Satisfying our roaring bellies between meals becomes even harder over the summer season of sport. Long days in the sun away from the familiarity and wholesomeness of the kitchen at home become inevitable.

But you don't have to hail over the kid with the hotdogs or munch on hot chips and fill up on over-priced beer. Here are some tastier, healthier and cheaper suggestions when snacking at sport:

Don't use EFTPOS once inside the venue

This includes credit cards, visa debits, any pieces of plastic in your wallet (for those searching for an alternative). Prepare the day's food at home and take it with you. Everything you BYO will put to shame the stuff sold on site.

Hotdogs, chips and pies might taste good (especially when doused in salt and sauce), but they're less filling, less nutritious and less satisfying - leaving you wanting more. Snacks that work well are fruit and veg, nuts, homemade baked goods (especially savoury muffins) or, if you want to eat like a King, show-off with anti-pasto. Cheeses, salami, olives and sundried tomatoes don't sound like your usual sporting fare, but you're mates will be green with envy.

A packed lunch from home is full of good stuff.Photo / Thinkstock
A packed lunch from home is full of good stuff.Photo / Thinkstock

Drink from a bottle you've owned for over a month

This means you have to bring your own beverage. And I don't mean slipping some vodka in to a flask. Drinking alcohol and sugary soft drinks are a sweet treat, but its important to stay well hydrated with water throughout the day. Not only will it keep your bank balance above ground, it will also keep you in good stead for later that night. Remember, you can't take open vessels in to the ground, but you could bring your empty canister and fill it up from the tap once inside.

If you have to eat from the canteen, choose wisely

We're not all good to ourselves all the time. Where's the fun in that, right? But if you're searching for something to buy at the venue, then look for foods with a low H.I. factor. What that? It means low Human Interference. The more foods are tampered with, the more likely they're going to have nutrients stripped from them. Sporting venues don't stock many of these wholefoods so you may have to go for a little walk to find what you're seeking - not the worst thing for your health either. Nothing beats a good lamb shank, chicken and veg stir-fry or a filled roll packed full of fresh salad and meat.

Try and stay away from hot chips.Photo / Thinkstock
Try and stay away from hot chips.Photo / Thinkstock

Eat meals instead of snacking

This is the simplest way to beat hazardous snacking habits. Many people have tripled "eating occasions" - from the standard three meals a day to nine mini feasts - a feat unheard of 50 years ago. This means, we're more inclined to empty our wallets to fill our swelling stomachs. It's far cheaper and satisfying to collaborate with friends and bring a chilly bag full of your favourite chilled meats, salads, sauces and spreads to pack into a wrap for a single feast.

It's important to never lose sight of the bigger picture. If you're at the cricket, eating well probably isn't going to be your top priority. But it's important to acknowledge the food offered at sporting venues is often processed, deep fried, expensive and comes under the term "junk food". It pays to be prepared.

Dave Shaw is a NZ registered dietitian and nutritionist. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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