I used to think that there were certain places where making healthy food choices was simply not an option, and that if I were going to one of these places, I might as well eat whatever I wanted.
Sounds like a cop out, right? That's because it is.
Don't get me wrong - it's easier to make healthy decisions in some places than others. For example, you'll probably have an easier time avoiding junk food temptation at a fresh farm-to-table spot than at an amusement park, but that doesn't mean that there are no healthy foods there, and it certainly doesn't grant you permission to go bananas and overeat.
When my husband and I decided to go to Citi Field to see my beloved Mets play a double header (two games in one day), I knew that I was going to be facing a challenging food day. Spending 8 hours at the ballpark meant eating lunch and dinner there, so the temptation would be real. Places like that are loaded with fries, deep fried Oreos, salted peanuts, cracker jacks, popcorn, slushes... tons of junk foods that even vegans can enjoy. So how did I manage to stay on track all day amongst all the delicious-looking garbage?
I made the decision to feel good instead of crappy.
How many times have you gone to a party or an event and given yourself permission to "treat yo'self," only to feel like absolute hell afterwards? We have all done it - one piece of cake leads to a cookie, which leads to a brownie, which leads to another cocktail, which leads to a dress that's bursting at the seams and a girl who wishes she were home in her sweatpants.
This was our last trip to Citi Field this season; two games we could potentially win; and an opportunity to take the day off from work to spend time with my husband, so I really didn't want to spend it feeling like a sick beached whale.
So, I did the unthinkable: I stuck to my regular diet amongst the best ball-park food in America, and I lived to tell the tale. Did it suck? Maybe for a second. But when I would normally feel too full and gross, I felt good, healthy, and ready to cheer for my boys.
Delicious food is overrated.
I know that's going to piss a lot of you off, and I'm okay with that, because I truly believe that it's true. When we eat hyper-palatable foods (foods that are much saltier and/or sweeter than any food found in nature), we only get about 3 seconds of pleasure from the dopamine our brains release. That's why we keep reaching for more - we want that good feeling to last. But the cost is way too high: we could never satisfy our cravings for dopamine, so we just wind up overindulging until it's far too late and we feel sick, overly full and uncomfortable.
Feeling comfortable is highly underrated.
Have you ever noticed the immense social shame placed upon people who abstain from junk food? My theory is that it's due to projection (you can read my blog on that subject here) but no matter the reason, it's extremely common. But why is it that no one ever celebrates how fabulous it feels to eat fruit? Why don't we celebrate the times that we can leave a party without unbuttoning our pants before sitting down in the car? It's as if every social gathering has turned into Thanksgiving dinner. I'd rather feel like a human (without being hungry!) than gorge myself any day.
So what did I eat?
Brace yourself - this may shake you to your core.
4PM LUNCH: Salad
Due to a high demand for healthy, allergen-free food, most places like ballparks, amusement parks and restaurants have at least 1 salad bar. At Citi Field, they have a magnificent one with tons of fresh veggies. I had mixed greens with corn, beans, carrots, chick peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. It was delicious, totally filling, and I didn't feel like I needed to be rolled back to my seat when I was finished.
5:30 PM SNACK 1: Peach
Along with selling salads, Citi Field offers fresh fruit. I decided to go with a peach because it looked perfectly ripe, and it was a fantastic mid-game snack! It satisfied my cravings for something sweet, and it took me long enough to eat that I felt satisfied when I was done - much more satisfied than I would have been from a deep fried Oreo or some French fries.
6:30 PM DINNER: Salad (again!)
A vegan hot dog (yes, they have them! How cool?!) sounded so delicious, but I knew that another salad would fill me up so much more than a hot dog, so I marched right back up to Brenda the salad maker and ordered another one! She was so happy that I enjoyed the first one enough to have a second, and she even gave me extra chick peas. After I finished, I felt completely satisfied.
8:30 PM SNACK 2: Pretzel twist
It was almost the end of game 2, and we were craving the delicious (and surprisingly vegan!) pretzel twists at Citi. These huge soft pretzels are just under 500 calories a piece, so we split one. It was the perfect little salty snack, and I didn't feel like I needed a whole one because I was still full from my salad. Normally, I would have easily eaten a whole one by myself and possibly even gotten a second, but this half was truly all that I wanted.
Listen, I don't want to tell you that you should never have a cheat meal or enjoy the unhealthy food at your favorite place.
I just want to make sure that you understand that you are not forced to make bad decisions just because you are somewhere that junk food is available to you.
Feeling good is far more valuable than the three seconds of pleasure you get from hyper-palatable foods, and no one has ever woken up in the morning, stood in front of the mirror and regretted ordering the salad.