Flavour of the Week / Practical Practice

Calgary Stampede: Calories Don’t Count?


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede – a time for celebration and fun… and often overindulgence. While the Stampede food motto happens to be “calories don’t count during Stampede”, we disagree! While your goal may not be healthy eating during Stampede, weight maintenance should be – indulging in Stampede food can easily leave you 5 pounds heavier in a matter of only 10 days.

We’re not saying you need to forgo the Stampede treats completely and live on salad, but making better choices a bit more often can keep your belt from needing another loop once the celebrations are over!

To help navigate the abundance of terrible choices, here are some tips developed by our summer students at the Medisys Calgary clinic – Kaitlyn Black, aspiring dietitian and Cole Brunner, aspiring kinesiologist.

Picking the lesser of two evils on the midway. The Stampede isn’t known for healthy food choices. In fact, it prides itself on deep-frying everything! Even on the midway there are some better choices though – not necessarily healthy choices, but definitely less unhealthy!

Corn Dog vs. Hot Dog
PICK: Hot dog. It is the better choice with less calories, less sodium and it isn’t deep-fried like the corn dog.

Beef on a Bun vs. Burger
PICK: The burger is the winner because it contains less sodium than the beef on a bun, especially if you hold the cheese!

Nachos vs. Soft-Baked Pretzel
PICK: Choose the pretzel because is contains less than half the calories of the nachos (which have a whopping 1,100 calories!) and also less sodium and fat. We suggest getting the unsalted pretzel and dipping in mustard; if you can’t find unsalted, shake off some of the salt to reduce the sodium.

Beer vs. Pre-mixed Jack and Cola
PICK: Beer. It still has 153 calories so don’t go too wild, but it is a better pick than the Jack and Cola which is loaded with sugar.

Deep-Fried Oreos vs. Mini Donuts
PICK: Mini donuts, but share them! Both are deep-fried and devoid of nutrition, however, the donuts are a little bit better in terms of fat content… but not if you eat the whole bag.

Cotton Candy vs. Caramel Popcorn
PICK: Caramel popcorn is the winner because it contains more fibre and protein, which will leave you feeling more satisfied than eating sugary fluff. We suggest you stick to about a cup and a half of the popcorn.

Ice Cream vs. Snow Cone
PICK: Snow cone. The snow cone only sets you back 30 calories and because it is mostly ice it will provide a bit of hydration as well!

Tips for indulging while trying to avoid the bulge:

  • Limit treats to once a day. Pick something that you really want because when it comes down to it, most of the foods look good but don’t actually taste that good!
  • If you can, share the food you are getting around the Stampede grounds. Sharing mini donuts with one friend saves you 351 calories and 13 grams of fat!
  • Bring your own snacks or even meals when you are heading to the grounds. You are allowed to bring in food, so packing snacks (like Lara Bars, homemade trail mix, or fruit and veggies) or small meals, like homemade wraps, can save you from having to resort to the not-so-healthy foods on the midway.
  • Eat a healthy, filling meal before you go to the grounds or to Stampede parties. This way you know what is going into your food and will be less likely to cave for the not very healthy options available at these events.
  • Avoid concession nachos at all costs! The small serving that you get contains 1,100 calories and over the daily upper limit for sodium!
  • Alternate alcohol and water. You need to stay hydrated, especially when it is warm out. Make sure to have a few big glasses of water before you leave the house.
  • Pack your own water bottle. Good for staying hydrated and much cheaper than the bottles you will find on the grounds. Drinking water can’t be stressed enough – not only will it fend off dehydration, but it might actually help you make better food choices. Water takes up valuable real estate in your stomach (so less room for nachos!) and prevents you from mistaking thirst for hunger.

What the treats will cost you…

  • Corn Dog (460 calories): 1 hour 22 minutes of horseback riding
  • Funnel Cake (760 calories): 2.5 hours of golf (read: you have to carry your clubs and no cart!)
  • One Mini Donut (54 calories): 9 minutes of fast-paced two-stepping
  • One Beer (153 calories): 54 minutes of walking at a moderate pace
  • Three pancakes from a Stampede breakfast (490 calories): 23 minutes of running stairs
  • Nachos (1,100 calories): 3.5 hours of line dancing

No Baloney’s advice. Have fun at Stampede! We generally suggest the 80:20 rule for eating – 80% of the time you make the healthiest choice possible, 20% is your guilt-free wiggle room. Stampede might be a few days of 60:40, but try not to let it veer into 30:70 range!

Most importantly, stop eating when you are no longer hungry – if you are full halfway through your cheeseburger, don’t finish it! Always avoid eating to the point of feeling stuffed.

Here are some more great tips for eating at Stampede from local dietitian Vincci Tsui.

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2 thoughts on “Calgary Stampede: Calories Don’t Count?

    • Our pleasure! Your articles and posts are always so well done, Vincci. Keep us up-to-date on FitNut’s plans and any articles you have coming out.

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