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Healthy Meals a Home Run for San Diego Padres
Baseball Club and UC San Diego team up to offer FriarFit menu at PETCO Park

Ioana Patringenaru | June 7, 2010

Padres Food
UC San Diego dietician Michelle Zive helped the San Diego Padres develop a healthy menu.

If you think that baseball games are all about eating hot dogs and Cracker Jacks, the San Diego Padres and UC San Diego dietician Michelle Zive want you to think again.

The Padres Foundation, the California Endowment and UC San Diego have teamed up to develop a slew of healthy options that fans can buy at PETCO Park on game days. The program is called FriarFit and launched last year.

“It’s a really exciting project,” said Zive, who works in UCSD’s Child Development and Community Health Division, and is a principal investigator for the Network for a Healthy California San Diego/Imperial County. “To fight the obesity epidemic, everyone has to be on board. And the Padres are.”

The program began with Hall-of-Famer Dave Winfield, now the Padres’ executive vice-president and senior adviser, said Sue Botos, director of the Padres Foundation, the team’s charitable arm, which funds the program. “He came to us and said the Padres should be a leader in Major League Baseball in addressing childhood obesity,” Botos recalled. “It’s becoming an epidemic and we need to do something about it.”

Padres Food
Patrons buy at the FriarFit cart during a game.
Courtesy/San Diego Padres

50th Anniversary UCSD Day at the Padres

Want to sample FriarFit menu items first hand? Join UCSD Alumni and invite your group, department  or program to attend the Sunday, Sept. 26 Padres game as they take on the Cincinnati Reds. Get your group tickets by June 15. More

One of the goals was to develop healthy eating options that would be available at the ballpark. So, the foundation contacted The California Endowment, seeking an expert that could guide the effort. The Endowment recommended Zive, who, as a registered dietician, had years of experience working with school districts to improve their menus.

“We needed someone who could be appropriately firm, but also someone whom we had 100 percent confidence in,” Botos said. “And without a doubt, that’s Michelle.”

A firm analyzed the nutritional value of many options and Zive used her knowledge of state and federal nutritional guidelines to select the most viable. These were the options that everyone, including SportService, the Padres’ concession contractor, was willing to commit to and that would be easy to order and stock, Zive said.

FriarFit meals include Santa Fe turkey sandwiches, veggie dogs and burgers, mandarin salads, granola bars and fruit cups. Some specifically target children and are sold at the FriarShack in the Park at the Park section of PETCO. All others are available not only at a FriarFit cart but also throughout the ballpark.

All FriarFit entrees and snacks for adults and those sold in the FriarShack for kids meet the following guidelines: 35 percent or less of calories from fat (excluding legumes, nuts, nut butters, etc.) and 10 percent or less calories from saturated fat. Also, entrees and snacks provide 35 percent or less of calories needed daily. Healthy FriarFit beverages include water without added sweeteners, low-fat or nonfat milk products, as well as fruit-based drinks that contain at least 50 percent fruit juice without added sweeteners.

Zive said she has learned over the years that a successful healthy option needs to be tasty—and cheap. Pricing healthy options competitively is key, she added. All kids’ items sold at the FriarShack are just $1.

So far, the program hasn’t been wildly successful, Botos acknowledges. “However, it’s important for us to have that option,” she said. “We don’t do it for the money, we do it because we feel it’s important.”

Padres Food
Selections include sandwiches, veggie dogs, salads and fruits.
Courtesy/San Diego Padres

The healthy food options are just one piece of the FriarFit program. It also includes a 10-minute exercise break for fans, dubbed “Instant Recess,” that takes place before every Sunday home game. The activity includes nine baseball-related moves.

The Padres also have been working with several agencies, including school districts, to provide an online resource that features tools and activities for teachers, parents and kids, as well as incentives for children, including visits by Padres players and alumni to select schools.

In April, the Children’s Power Play! campaign, which aims to encourage food stamp-eligible  9-to 11-year-old children and their families to eat healthy and exercise every day, launched a Friar Fit promotion.

Schools and after-school programs received jump ropes, hackie sacks or pedometers as a reward for completing a set of activities. They also were entered in a raffle to receive free tickets to see the Padres play. The program hosted the Touching Minds, Shaping Futures conference, with 400 members of after-school programs in attendance. Also, 400 children took part April 7 in a “Baseball Bonanza” at Alcott Elementary School in San Diego.

In May, Larissa Johnson, a community health program representative in the UCSD pediatrics department who helps coordinate the FriarFit program and many others, including Children’s Power Play!, was recognized for her efforts with an UCSD Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year award. She said she loves to see the sense of accomplishment that community members show after completing a program. She also loves seeing the light bulb moment when they understand the health and fitness information she’s trying to share. Zive, who works with Johnson, echoed her comments.

“It’s all about making a difference,” Zive said. “One person at a time. One calorie at a time.”

Padres Marlins
Children take part in the FriatFit instant recess program at PETCO Park before a game.
Courtesy/San Diego Padres

Four tips to eat healthy and stay fit from UC San Diego dietician Michelle Zive

  • Change your home environment to make it easier to eat healthy. For example, stock your fridge with cut-up and washed fruits and vegetables.
  • A little exercise is better than none at all. Don’t have the time for that 30-minute jog or walk? Squeeze in 10 minutes of exercise whenever you can throughout the day.
  • Follow the 80-20 rule: If you eat right and exercise 80 percent of the time, you can do whatever you want for the remaining 20 percent.
  • Make it the way you live your life, not just a diet. This is the way you should be living the rest of your life.

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