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Friday, October 7, 2011

Football Food – Don’t Let Game Day Throw Off Your Game

By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD

There are two types of people in this world: those who were raised watching football, and those who don’t know the difference between a tight end and a fine behind. Even if you’re more of the latter (no judgment, I’m one of them), the parties are more than enough reason to be psyched for fall football season. But with all the action comes a whole lot of eating, and unfortunately Sunday Fundays are not exactly known for their healthy options.

Luckily, though, it is possible to have fun without allowing your eating to become as disastrous as Brett Favre’s text message history (zing!). So let’s healthy-up game day, starting with tailgating in the stadium parking lot.

  • Grills rock, so take advantage. Think outside the typical hot dog and burger. Barbecue-marinated chicken, fish, veggie burgers, or vegetables.
  • Hot dogs aren’t necessarily the bad guys. Check the ingredients and try to avoid nitrites (unhealthy preservatives).
  • Sauerkraut contains probiotics and antioxidants. If you make it your go-to condiment, you can give your conscience a break about nitrate-y hot dogs. Whole grain mustard is another condiment rock star.

Sports bar bound? There are always options, you just have to dig for them.

  • Wings: they’re fried, coated in sugary sauces, dipped in blue cheese or ranch and eaten skin on.  So, a hot mess, nutritionally speaking. It pains me to say this, but chicken tenders are actually the better option here.
  • Finger foods: fried, fried, fried. If you just need to munch, sports bars almost always serve veggies and bean dips. If it’s not listed on the menu, ask!
  • Fries: trade ‘em, ideally for salad, but even a baked potato (go easy on add-ins) is a step in the right direction.

Hosting a game-day party should be the healthiest option, but it’s often the biggest disaster. Here’s our strategy:

  • Chips: Anything that turns your fingers orange has got to go. Replace greasy potato chips with baked versions and oust processed crackers (including pretzels) for whole grain crackers and tortilla chips. Better yet, try my favorite: homemade popcorn.
  • Dips: swap out creamy onion and cheese dips for fresh salsa, guacamole, hummus and other bean dips.
  • Macaroni salad and coleslaw: go easy on mayo, heavy on veggies.
  • Chili: Try ground turkey in place of beef, and load up on vegetables and spices.

Wherever you’re going, BYO! And I don’t mean bring your own booze, although I’m sure no one would complain. Keep healthy snacks like almonds, a piece of fruit, or carrots and hummus on hand.

On the beverages front, less is always more:

  • Skip regular beers and sugary mixers like regular sodas, juices, tonic water, and energy drinks.
  • Stick with light beers and low calories mixers like club or diet soda.
  • Water, water, water. You’ll make better food-choices and thank yourself tomorrow.

OK, now you’re officially ready to grab your koozie and apply your warpaint. Keep these game day tips in mind, and you’ll have no problem leaving the extra padding to the guys on the field.

Posted by: Carolyn Brown, MS, RD at 10:13 am

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