We reached out to registered dietitian Sarah Ladden for her tips on keeping your Super Bowl healthy. With a little planning and some smart substitutions, you can avoid getting sidelined by calorie- and fat-laden dishes. She offers her top tips for a diet-friendly Super Bowl this year.
Plan in advance
The best way to ensure a healthier Super Bowl is to have a game plan. "It's easiest to avoid temptation and prevent overeating when you plan in advance," Ladden says. If you host the gathering yourself you can prep the foods you know will work with your dietary goals. Or if you're going to a viewing party elsewhere, bring along a dish or two that you can enjoy – and share – sans the guilt, the dietician advises.
Snacks and sports games just seem to be made for each other, but be careful with how much you eat while rooting for your favorite team. "Mindlessly digging into a big bag of chips is a surefire way to lose sight of how much you're consuming," Ladden explains. "Instead of serving yourself directly from the bag, grab a small bowl and dish out one serving of your favorite snack." Serving sizes will vary, so check the nutrition facts label, but a serving of chips is typically 10 to 12 chips, or about a handful.
Curb added sugar
Fat and sodium are synonymous with game day foods but hidden calories from added sugar can derail your diet, too. "Sweet marinades and dipping sauces for wings or cocktail meatballs can easily be slimmed down by replacing sugar and honey with an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener like Stevia in the Raw," Ladden suggests. She also recommends serving a refreshing low-calorie beverage as an alternative to the empty calories found in beer and soda. Sparkling water mixed with orange or pomegranate juice with a squeeze of lime is tasty and refreshing with far less sugar than soda.
As much as creamy dips are a great snack for groups, the fat and calories add up fast. "Game day dips are murder on your hips and thighs," Ladden warns. Ditch the heavier dips for something lighter. "Choose smarter accompaniments like salsa, which is naturally low in fat and provides a burst of healthy flavors thanks to tomatoes, cilantro, onions and other fresh ingredients," she explains. If you just can't survive the big day without your staple onion dip, use fat-free sour cream instead of the full-fat variety and you'll swipe out six grams of fat per serving.
Get moving during halftime
While it's OK to sit tight while you're engrossed in the game, don't be a couch potato during halftime, says Ladden. "While the Super Bowl commercials are always a major draw, you can now catch all of the ads online after the game, so no need to stay glued to the tube when the game is in recess," she tells us. "Instead, head outside and organize your own 20-minute football game to help burn off some of those extra calories."
Avoid getting too hungry pre-game
Not eating enough during the day and having an empty stomach once the fun starts is a great way to ensure you overindulge once the game is on. You may think you're saving calories on the front end, but when you approach a buffet line or table full of snacks when you're ravenous, you lose all sense of self-control. "Choose a low-calorie protein- or fiber-packed snack about an hour before party time to help avoid stuffing yourself silly," Ladden says. "Low-fat Greek yogurt, half a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter -- even a handful of trail mix are all great options."
Keep the healthiest options close by
Bowl of grapes or bowl of M&Ms? It's a no-brainer which one most of us would be drawn to. But research shows that the further away temptation is, the more likely you are to avoid it, Ladden explains. "Put this principle to good use and mingle around the healthier snack options, like veggies and low-fat dip. If the cheese and crackers or nachos are out of sight, you may just be able to keep them out of mind."
Chew, chew, chew
While your mother might have told you that it was rude to chew gum in public, a pack of sugarless gum may be your saving grace at a Super Bowl party. Ladden adds, "When temptation is overwhelming, pop a stick of gum in your mouth and you may find those chicken wings easier to resist."
More healthy eating tips
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