11 Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips for Enjoying the Calgary Stampede
(HealthCastle.com). It is a difficult time for Calgarians with the recent floods. And who would have thought that the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth would actually happen? The Calgary Stampede is only a few days away, and the anticipation is fraught with mixed emotion. The Calgary Stampede is an annual outdoor fair complete with a rodeo, games, rides, concerts, the famous Stampede Parade, and of course food.
Recently, this year’s list of Stampede Food was released and among the shocking new additions are deep fried butter, chocolate bacon apple, deep fried bubble-gum, and a double bacon corndog! These can be found amongst the typical array of fair food which includes burgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, mini doughnuts. And what Stampede experience would be complete without the pancake breakfasts, and the from-morning-till-night beer!
For those of us working toward a health goal, and following a nutrition plan, spending the day, let alone, 10 days, at the fair can be intimidating. How will you navigate through the myriad of choices? Can you get in the Stampede spirit and still make healthy choices consistent with your health goals? Yes! Have no fear! With a little awareness and planning, you can enjoy the events and the food, and stay focused on your health goals!
Here are 11 tips that will help you navigate the Stampede experience and stay on track with your lifestyle goals!
1) Eat Breakfast
- Before heading to the grounds, make sure you eat a healthy, balanced breakfast that will leave you full and satisfied.
- Try making your own whole grain pancakes and top with yogurt and fruit, instead of the large volume of syrup! Here are 15 other breakfast ideas to fuel your Stampeding.
2) Pack Snacks
- Bring a bag with you and carry some snacks such as mini-muffins, fruit (fresh or dried), veggies, smaller amounts of trail mix and/or nuts.
- Use these to tide you over until you are able to get a healthy meal. You can pack your own Do-it-yourself 100 kcal snack packs.
3) Plan Ahead
- On the Calgary Stampede website you can find a food map that shows you where you can find certain restaurants or types of food. There are healthier options available on the grounds - you just need to know where to look. For example, there is a restaurant and a food court in the Big 4 building that offers a variety of options and at some restaurants, you can look at the nutritional information before choosing a meal.
4) Balance it Out
- When attending events such as the Stampede breakfasts or lunches, you don’t need to miss out on the food. Build a balanced breakfast or lunch by filling your plate with a combination of fruits and vegetables, grains, and proteins.
- For example, a balanced breakfast may include a pancake [rather than pancakeS], a scrambled egg [rather than eggS], and some watermelon. A balanced lunch may include a grilled hamburger and fresh salad with condiments and dressing on the side.
5) Portion Awareness
- The pancakes and burgers that are served at many of the Stampede events are often quite large.
- Be aware of the nutritional content of the breakfast items and pay attention to the portion size of your meal.
Here is a typical Stampede breakfast calorie breakdown:
- 1 six inch diameter pancake = 175 calories
- 1 tbsp of maple syrup = 50 calories [how many tablespoons do you actually consume before your pancake soaks up your syrup?]
- 1 pork sausage = 160 calories
- ½ cup scrambled eggs = 160 calories
- ½ cup hash browns = 170 calories
This is a grand total of 715 calories – just for breakfast!
Here is a visual portion size tool to help you remain portion aware.
6) Drink Water
- If we are lucky enough to get great weather, it is easy to spend time in the sun and dehydrate! It is also really easy to dehydrate when drinking alcoholic beverages.
- Keeping hydrated is very important when heading down to the grounds or to a Stampede party. Make sure that you have had enough water before heading out and keep yourself watered along the way. Consider taking a bottle with you or make sure to get some at the grounds.
7) Limit Alcohol
- While it is tempting to go wild with all of the beer gardens and parties every day, 10 days of this will likely have a significant impact on your nutrition plan and lifestyle goal.
- Limit you intake of alcoholic beverages and make sure that you are drinking plenty of water. Alternate between your alcoholic beverage and water [and of course, drink responsibly ].
- An average beer contains about 150 calories and a highball or cooler can range anywhere from 150 to over 200 calories per drink - depending on the type of drink and serving size. Combine that with the munchies, and the calories from the alcohol can easily add up.
8) Look Outside the Grounds
- In Calgary, the Stampede grounds are right downtown so alternate choices for places to eat can be found not far from the grounds.
- There is a food market just 2 blocks from the grounds on 12th Avenue and 1st Street SE that offers fresh salads, sandwiches, and other tasty options. If you are looking for additional options, you can also try restaurants outside the grounds.
9) Pick a few unique foods and ENJOY yourself mindfully
- There are many treats that are unique to the Stampede. If you have a favourite treat or you’re really curious about that deep fried bubble-gum, go ahead and try it. Enjoy the unique and somewhat bizarre foods, and do so mindfully!
- Consider skipping the fair foods that you can eat after Stampede. For example, you can typically find corn dogs and cotton candy after Stampede is over. Unless this is one of your top picks, skip this for another food.
- You don’t need to avoid all of the fair foods.
10) Get Moving!
- Include some planned physical activity as part of your Stampede experience.
- Participate in the Stampede Road Race, get two-steppin’ or line dancing!
- Plan a Stampede-Road-ride family potluck.
11) Enjoy the Stampede Experience!
- While food is a great part of the Stampede experience [food is an integral part of many meaningful experiences], there are many other events and activities that also contribute to the excitement.
- People travel from all over the world for the events. Aim to meet new people.
- Get out and enjoy the traditional events such as the rodeo, the concerts, meet some new people, and of course, enjoy the rides!
You can have your cake and eat it too, as long as it’s the exception and not the rule. Shift away from all-or-nothing thinking. Include healthy choices as part of your stampede experience, and avoid overindulging for the full 10 days of Stampede! The Calgary Stampede really IS the greatest outdoor show on earth, and this year, more than ever, it will showcase the spirit of Calgary and its fabulous people. The above tips can help you have a great time at the Stampede or any fair without sacrificing your nutrition plan! I’d say that deserves a big Yahoo!
Written by Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Director and Dietitian, HealthCastle Calgary. Thank you to Laurel Zvaigzne BSc Natural Science and BSc Dietetics [candidate] for her contributions to the research behind this post.