Game day strategies for tackling your Super Bowl diet

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Wings, chips, carrots, football

Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest day for food consumption, next to Thanksgiving.

If the calories for one serving of each of the foods bought for a Super Bowl party were added up, the number would reach over 6,000 calories, according to The Washington Post. Diet and fitness plans can go out the window easily if you don’t have a game plan for your football party.

Offensive strategy

It’s hard to avoid all of the salty and sugary treats at Super Bowl parties, even if you resolved to eat healthier throughout the new year. Be on the offensive and stick to your diet and health goals for the year.

If you’re attending someone else’s get-together and find out that there are many less-than-healthy foods planned, bring a dish that’s healthy. Make it a priority to stick to healthier foods. If you’re hosting a party, make sure there are plenty of fruits, vegetables and salads to go around. Try some of these healthy options from Penn State Extension.

If diabetic guests will be in attendance, offer low-calorie and sugar-free options. According to Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a registered dietitian nutritionist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, keeping carbohydrates down and adding protein are key for diabetics. For those with high blood pressure, stocking up on fruits and vegetables will help to build potassium, which avoiding snacks with high salt content.

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center offers tips to tackle your diet while you watch the big game. Here are some of the healthy alternatives to favorite game-watching snacks:

Chips and nachos: Choose baked versions instead, and serve pretzels with light salt.
Dips: Try salsas or low-fat versions of dips and dressings.
Pizza: Opt for extra veggies instead of meat.
Wings: Bake or grill chicken wings instead of deep-frying.
Chili: Give meatless chili a try, or use ground turkey or soy instead of beef.
Soda: Drink a glass of water before drinking a can of soda. Offer flavored water in place of soda.
BBQ: Take a little chicken and beef to help lower calories. Make kabobs that mix vegetables rather than steak.
Ribs: Leaner ribs are a better choice than fatty pork ribs. Or, choose brisket, since you’ll likely eat less.
Burgers: Opt for fewer calories by cooking veggie, turkey or soy burgers and rubbing them with spices and rubs. Or, blend ground hamburger with ground turkey or ground soy.
French fries: Make baked sweet potato fries for something that’s different and healthier.
Macaroni and cheese: Substitute this favorite for low-sugar baked beans or rice.
Hot dogs/bratwurst: Buy 100 percent beef hot dogs, or choose turkey or soy franks. Pick wheat buns or tortillas instead of white buns.
Desserts: Serve fresh fruit, light whipped cream and granola over low-fat yogurt instead of cookies, cupcakes and other sweets.

Game plan

You can make healthy food choices at a Super Bowl party. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension offers some game rules to remember:

Play defense. Before the game, have in mind what you’re going to eat. Don’t surround yourself with calorie-laden foods.
Check nutrition labels. Be informed about food choices. Refrain from eating out of a box or bowl; instead, put food on a plate.
Be active. Get up and move during the commercials. Walk around until play resumes.
Limit what you eat before the game and during each quarter. You’ll cut down on a lot of calories and added sugars and carbs if you track what you’re eating and refrain from constant eating from kickoff to the final score.
“Everything in moderation.” If you want to eat something that’s high in calories, carbs or sugar, go for it. Just limit yourself.
Eat foods at safe temperatures. To avoid food poisoning, pay attention to how long foods have been left at room temperature. The “safe zone” for perishable foods at room temperature is two hours. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees F or hotter with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Likewise, cold foods need to be kept at 40 degrees F or colder by using ice.

Limit penalties

Portion control is the big factor when it comes to sticking to your diet. Here are some guidelines for the foods you consume during the game:

Zero penalties.

  • Salads, especially those with sprouts, mushrooms, onions, peppers, radishes and tomatoes are great food options. Using low-calorie or sugar-free dressings won’t get you any penalties, either.
  • Low calorie vegetables.
  • Drinks such as water, coffee, unsweetened tea and low-calorie soft drinks
  • Meats, including grilled fish, skinless chicken and turkey
  • low-dairy or non-dairy items like cheeses, yogurts and skim milk

5-yard penalties.

Pay attention to serving sizes and don’t overload on these items

  • Fruits like apples, peaches and berries
  • Whole grain rice, pasta, breads and crackers
  • Legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, chick peas and lentils
  • Unsalted nuts

15-yard penalties.

Avoid consuming these items.

  • Sweets like cookies, pies, candies and other desserts
  • Snack foods like potato chips, high-fat dips and high-fat crackers
  • Regular soda, alcohol and sweetened beverages

Final score

Once you compare the calorie counts between two similar snacks, like the items on this list from the University of Illinois Extension, you’ll be more inclined to stick to your diet goals. Again, moderation is key. You’ll enjoy the game — and the party — much more if you take control of what you eat.

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Katie Woods grew up in Columbiana, Ohio. Katie likes reading, writing, enjoying the outdoors and DIY projects.

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