Forbes logoIf you've been to a baseball game lately, you know that an afternoon at the ballpark doesn't mean you have to derail your diet.

In recent years, major-league ballparks across the country have begun selling lighter fare, including fruit skewers, sushi and vegan dogs, at their concession stands. And in a nod to the increasing interest in organic and locally grown foods, some stadiums offer seasonal specials, veggie kebabs and Mediterranean spreads such as hummus.

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But that doesn't mean the majority of baseball fans are actually eating healthy.

Faced with a choice between a crisp basil-and-tomato salad and a loaded, juicy, foot-long hot dog, spectators are still going for the high-calorie, fat-laden quintessential baseball snack.

Indeed, once they hit the stands, "most folks check their diets at the door," says Ed Lake, regional executive chef for Aramark, which manages culinary services at 13 major-league baseball stadiums.

In an effort to provide healthier options, Aramark began using fryer oil containing no trans fat in all its baseball stadium dining locations in early 2007. It's also started offering smaller portions in suites—more closely gearing the number of custom-grind burgers, for instance, to the size of the group in attendance—and introduced meals such as fajitas and veggie steaks.

Not-So-Good-For-You Nibbles

Traditional ballpark favorites, however, continue to be the country's most popular menu items.

In fact, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimated that baseball fans would consume nearly 30 million hot dogs in 2007, enough to round the bases 41,776 times. Mets fans alone were projected to consume more than 1.5 million hot dogs, Fenway Park goers 1.4 million and Coors Field fans 1.25 million.

Besides hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts, there are plenty of other unhealthy yet mouth-watering options out there. Tapping into fans' hometown pride, many ballparks also sell trademark regional foods, including garlic Parmesan fries in San Francisco's AT&T Park and pirogies at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

The trend took off with the wave of construction of new major-league parks, helping to attract new fans and giving stadium regulars something different, says Josh Pahigian, author of the new book 101 Baseball Places To See Before You Strike Out.

And, of course, more than a dozen major-league teams now encourage fans to pig out in the somewhat controversial all-you-can-eat sections, usually bleacher or nosebleed seats where you pay a fixed price to tuck into as many franks, nachos and peanuts as you can handle.

Finer Fare

If you plan to head to a game or two this season, you don't have to accept defeat or completely deprive yourself, says Charles Stuart Platkin, the nutrition and public health expert behind Try focusing on limiting your portion sizes and the extras. Go for the two-ounce kosher hot dog rather than the foot-long, and use low-calorie yellow mustard in lieu of ketchup, sauerkraut and relish.

Season ticket-holders and avid sports fans, on the other hand, need to do a little more training to avoid putting on weight. Make a list of the five or so healthiest items you like at your stadium of choice; call the food-service director for preparation information if you're confused. These might include a baked potato, vegetarian chili or wrap sandwiches. Then, always order something from your pre-established menu.

If that doesn't sound appealing, at least try to eat a filling, healthy meal before you head to the game so you won't have as much room for error. Or, Platkin says, you can always try to sneak in air-popped popcorn or an apple for a crunchy but still good-for-you snack.

Yes, the first couple of games when you're biting into a pear instead of a soft pretzel will be difficult. But can you recondition yourself.

"No one else is going to be your sobering ego," Platkin says. "You have to make a choice if you're going to control your weight."