By Gisela Valencia
One of the best parts of the Super Bowl is gathering around with family and friends, and eating amazing food while watching the big game.
If you’re trying to count calories or stick to a healthy diet, though, you may be tempted to feel like you can’t really eat snacks — or at least none of the great ones — come game day.
To bust this myth and share tips on enjoying delicious, healthy foods and how we can approach our dietary choices during the annual football feast, FIU News spoke with dietitian Tania Rivera, an assistant clinical professor at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work.
Here are her top tips for keeping it healthy while enjoying the Super Bowl:
Top recipe suggestions:
1. Skip the dip — go for hummus and carrots (or other veggies) instead.
Those creamy, white dips are the ones that come chock-full of fats. Substitute the dip for hummus and, instead of dipping chips, enjoy veggies.
“Hummus is an excellent dip for everything,” Rivera says. “Hummus with carrots is always a fan favorite. And as much as you can use veggies, that ups the nutritional value in any snack.”
Rivera adds that salsa is also a great option for dip. The tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime and other vegetables usually found in salsa are healthy for you.
If you really want chips, she adds, choose the baked ones. “You save a lot of calories and saturated fats with baked chips.”
She also recommends chopping bell peppers and using them for dipping or even stuffing bell peppers with lean ground beef. “Those are great snacks,” she says. For more veggie layering, you could also stuff avocadoes with fresh vegetables like tomatoes, onion and cilantro.
Whole grain crackers are another substitute for chips. “Fiber fills us up more,” Rivera explains. “So, we tend to eat less whole grain crackers. Let’s let the crackers and veggies fill us up instead [of filling up on the more fattening foods].”
2. Use lean meats and bake chicken wings.
Burgers and wings are the royalty of Super Bowl foods. You can modify recipes to enjoy them both while staying on a healthy meal plan.
Use extra lean ground beef instead of sirloin for burgers. Instead of chicken wings, you can try other chicken cuts. “Chicken breasts are healthier than chicken wings,” Rivera says.
If chicken wings are your heart’s desire, baking them is your best choice. Rivera says baked chicken wings are completely fair game when it comes to a healthy diet.
“The biggest health culprits at Super Bowl gatherings are often fried wings,” Rivera says. “That’s a hot ticket item. You can make a big difference in your health by baking them instead.”
3. Try to avoid foods with very high amounts of sodium and preservatives.
Charcuterie boards with cold cut meats are one item you may want to stay away from, Rivera says.
Ham and salami often contain high amounts of salt and sodium. And, if not eaten in moderation, those cold cuts could turn into high sodium numbers.
Desserts that are loaded with sugars are obviously not the best option. If you want to have a cookie, let yourself have one. “Limit yourself to one or two as opposed to mindlessly filling up your plate,” she says.
As for drinks, Rivera recommends sticking with water.
4. Balancing foods throughout the day is crucial – and so is listening to your body.
“If you know you’re going to have some foods that are more questionable for dinner, then have a very healthy breakfast and lunch,” Rivera says. “The next day, you go back to eating healthy and exercising.”
She also recommends we eat in small quantities and let ourselves realize whether we’re full or not.
“It takes your stomach over 15 minutes to signal your brain that you are full,” she explains. “The concept of mindful eating is important. It means listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues and, while you’re doing that, taking the time to eat slowly instead of gulping everything down.”
If you’re still hungry after some time, go back and get a bit more food, but don’t overload your plate with tons of food and try to scarf it down without giving yourself the chance to realize if you’re even still hungry.
5. Enjoy the Super Bowl!
“Too often when someone is trying to stay healthy and then the holidays or the Super Bowl comes, people feel like they get derailed,” Rivera says. “They walk into the event or celebration thinking they can’t eat this, or they can’t eat that. Emotionally, this puts you in a bad mood.”
If you feel you can’t eat anything that you like, then once you’re at the party, you might be tempted to give up altogether and eat layer upon layer of fried, sodium-filled, fattening items. This is emotional eating, Rivera says. And it’s not healthy.
If you approach a Super Bowl party with a calm mindset, you can go in allowing yourself to eat a few of the more fattening items while also placing limits on yourself as to how much of those items you’ll eat or what kind of foods you will consume.
If you’re hosting the Super Bowl party, then you have much more control over the foods that get cooked and can follow all these tips. If you’re a guest, then make sure you bring an item or two that is healthy and that you know you can eat!
Rivera’s final advice: “Enjoy the event, just eat different food types in moderation.”
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By Gisela Valencia