8 ways to enjoy the Calgary Stampede midway guilt- (and bloat-) free!

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The Dragon Dog

It’s that time of year again – we’re about to kick off the 2015 Calgary Stampede! If you’re reading this and you’ve never been, trust me when I say, it surely is an experience – especially on the midway. This year’s food vendors know how to push consumers’ palates with delicacies like the Dragon Dog {we’re talking a foot long sweet bread sandwich with bratwurst sausage marinated in booze, Kobe beef, lobster, and a special sauce, priced at $100}, Red Curry Poutine, and the Peanut Butter Kabob, among others. Luckily, this year, I’m also seeing some healthier options, like Giant Fruit Spears, and Peanut Butter Power Balls {though they make up the minority}!

I wholeheartedly endorse eating for fuel, flavour, AND fun…, something similar to applying the 80/20 rule where one chooses the most healthy choice available 80% of the time and has space for “play” foods 20% of the time. Considering the Calgary Stampede is like a 20% party, where the majority of foods are ultra high in fat, sugar, or salt (or all three in the case of the Donut Grilled Cheese Sandwich), it’s best to keep your intake there to a minimum. That said, no need to have an “all-or-none” attitude – you can experience some of these midway treats without the guilt. Just remember to savour!

Here are a few tips as you head out to Stampede this weekend:

1. Choose a maximum of 1 midway treat per day. 

Check out your options ahead of time using the 2015 Calgary Stampede Food Maps. If you are going to down 800+ calories in one sitting, you best enjoy your choice! If you can, share with a friend… or two!

2. Avoid the Ogre Cone, unless you have a family of 20 to feed

We’re talking a 4 litre ice cream cone! Now I’m a BIG fan of ice cream, but no one in their right mind needs that much.

3. Hit up the fruit spears or PB Power Balls instead

Fruit is SOOO refreshing on a hot summer day, especially if you’ve had enough of the foods that give you a gut ache! And if you’re aching for a different mid-afternoon pick-me-up, the power balls are a must. They are simple and filling, and contain only four ingredients (peanut butter, oats, honey, and vanilla).

4. Pack your lunch or take snacks with you. 

Some options include:

  • Sandwiches or wraps with lean protein and veggies
  • Portable fruit like apples, berries, and bananas
  • Homemade trail mix (unsalted nuts + dried fruit + high fibre cereal)
  • Granola bars with at least 4 grams of fibre and less than 8 grams of sugar and mostly whole ingredients (i.e. Kashi, Made Good, Lara Bars), or better yet, make your own!
  • Raw veggies – why not? Pack them in baggies and away you go!

5. Choose filling, low-calorie meals when you are away from the Grounds. 

Balance your plate:

  • 1/2 plate vegetables (especially dark green and orange like spinach, kale, carrots and squash)
  • 1/4 plate starch (whole grains like quinoa, barley, millet, brown/wild rice are best!)
  • 1/4 plate protein (legumes, lean meats, fish, nuts/seeds, etc)

6. Be alcohol informed. 

Your 6+ drinks in one day at Stampede can have detrimental effects, not to mention pack on the calories. Wondering how much is too much? Check out this resource from Healthy Alberta for more information. Basically, put the boot of beer down and pace yourself!

7. Drink water! 

It’s hot out there and your risk for dehydration can skyrocket when you spend hours outside. Carry a water bottle with you! If you aren’t a fan of plain water, try cold herbal tea, True Lemon natural flavouring, or add whole fruit to your H2O.

8. Take every opportunity possible to kick up your heels! 

A night of two-stepping and line dancing can help to get your heart rate up and burn calories, not to mention the good time! Not a seasoned two-stepper? Not to worry, there are lessons for that.

Looking for more great evidence-based Stampede tips? My friend Vincci of vinccitsui.com lists her Top 4 Tips for a Healthy Calgary Stampede, and my friend Cheryl of sweetspotnutrition.ca gives some great advice about enjoying Stampede breakfasts!

How will you plan ahead for this year’s Stampede?

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