Calgary Stampede Food: Enjoy Breakfast to Midway, Skip the Detox

The nice people at CBC’s Eyeopener morning show had me on yesterday to talk about healthy Stampede eating. That was fun!

If you didn’t happen to be up at 6:40am listening, here are 5 tips we discussed:

  1. There are still a few healthy(ier) Stampede breakfasts left (Wednesday and Thursday).
  2. If you don’t hit one of those, start in your kitchen. Either eat before you go or pack snacks. Mandarin oranges travel easily, or rinse off raspberries, cherries, blueberries, grapes… so easy! Bring them out in a pancake line and watch them disappear.
  3. If you’re looking for healthyish food on the grounds, they’ve got it. A few highlights:
    • The fresh & local farm outlet in Weadickville has seasonal fruit cups, bags of chopped veggies, and salads.
    • This watermelon and raspberry salad
      Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

      looks refreshingly delicious.

    • If you need something more hearty, how about the Pulled Chicken Quesadilla? “Slow roasted Mediterranean-spiced chicken surrounded with fresh spinach, melting mozzarella and topped with signature mustard and served with a creamy, tangy garlic and cucumber dip” (on the side).
    • Or the Szechwan Prawn Wrap: “…panko crusted prawns, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cucumber” and consider skipping or going easy on the “Szechwan sauce and Sriracha mayonnaise”. Sauces usually deliver a lot of extra sodium and calories, but also flavour, so just find the balance that works for you.
    • Crunchy Cowboy from Avatara Pizza: “Chili-Lime BBQ Sauce, Mozzarella/ Cheddar Blend, Mushrooms, Pineapple, In House made Bruschetta, Honey Drizzle, & Crushed Cashews,” on a gluten-free crust, and can be made vegan or not.
    • For those who don’t eat nuts, eggs, dairy, gluten, meat, or any animal products, the Stampede has produced a comprehensive, detailed list, and you have lots of options!
  4. What about going hard during Stampede and just detoxing afterwards? While it’s understandable to want a mental break after a stretch of excess, there is no evidence of any tangible benefit. A healthy liver and kidneys can remove toxins just fine, thank you. Furthermore, detoxes endanger your healthy relationship with food by trapping you in the binge-restrict-repeat cycle. The overeating brings guilt, nausea, bloating, and/or lethargy, followed by energy-zapping deprivation and unsustainable perfection. The cycle is eventually repeated, along with increasing feelings of failure and self-blame. And any weight lost will be temporary and mostly water and possibly hard-earned muscle mass. And don’t get me started on the cost (see below).
  5. No guilt! If you’re going to indulge, enjoy it. If you have a Stampede favourite or would really love a taste of a midway delicacy, savour it and then go back to your regular eating habits. Health is about much, much more than food, and strict avoidance just causes cravings.

As usual, I had ten times as much to say as there was time. A few more tips:

  1. More snack ideas: Nuts, seeds, and homemade trial mix don’t take up much room and hold up well in the heat.
  2. If you’d rather not buy any meals on the grounds, how about packing some peanut butter sandwiches (or sunflower seed butter if you need a nut-free option)?
  3. If you want a cool treat at the grounds, there’s a frozen chocolate-covered watermelon on a stick.
    Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

    Looks delicious and yay for midway food that doesn’t take you directly from Weadickville to napville.

  4. There’s soft serve ice cream infused with activated charcoal, which might look cool, but this fad food has no magical health benefits. Just because it’s used in the ER for overdoses doesn’t mean it will detox you of sausages and beer. Hard eye roll. Worst case, it could interfere with absorption of your meds.
  5. While I believe in no forbidden foods, I do think it’s a bit scary that you can buy a beverage (“unicorn bucket”) with an estimated 1-1.5 cups of sugar in it! (It’s 2 litres of sugary hydration.) But hey, they add fruit too, so it’s healthy, right? Yikes. How about bringing some oranges and a water bottle?
  6. While I’m on the topic, stay hydrated! It’s usually hot as blazes at the grounds. If water doesn’t excite you, how about sparkling water, iced coffee, iced tea (all preferably without sugar), or yes, even one or two beers. (Yes really!) Even that refreshing-looking lemonade has a sugar content comparable to pop, so if you really love it (I do!), go for a small, share with a friend, or dilute it with water.
  7. Final midway highlight: “corn on a cup”:
    Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

    “Roasted corn brushed with Mexican crème, covered with a mixture of cheese, chili powder, garlic and cilantro, served with a lime wedge.” Yum! Now that’s a treat that hits the sweet spot.

  8. And for the Stampede atrocity award, how about the local company (which shall remain unnamed) selling a 3-day post-Stampede juice cleanse for $333!? If you’re thinking of doing that, how about give half to the food bank and spend half at the farmers’ market instead? Sheesh.

Hope that helps you make it through the last few days with your Yahoo! intact. (Never Yee-haw.) Happy Stampede!

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