With football season upon us, many people are spending their weekends (and their Monday and Thursday nights) watching a packed lineup of college and professional games. This entertaining enterprise is often paired with special foods and drinks, whether served at a tailgate, cooked up at home or delivered. With game day favorites, including wings, nachos, dips, and all manner of grilled meats, plus beer, sodas, and other unhealthy drinks, it’s easy for a three-hour game — or a full-day watch session — to involve an inordinate number of calories. Fortunately, there are many ways to eat great food without succumbing to calorie-laden pitfalls.
5 TIPS FOR HEALTHIER GAME DAY EATING
“Game day can have some of your favorite high-calorie foods,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD. “But incorporating some lighter options can keep your waistline intact throughout the season.” Below, she recommends several easy-to-follow practices for your game day consideration.
1. KEEP THINGS COLORFUL
If you’re serving a large spread, include a veggie platter for nutrients and fiber. “Fiber helps you get full faster and stay full longer,” says Goodson, so it’s a great addition to your lineup.
2. CHANGE UP THE CRUNCH
Chips are a game day staple, and for good reason — they’re delicious. But try swapping typically high-fat chips with pita chips or whole-grain crackers, which offer a savory crunch in a healthier package.
3. PASS ON HIGH-FAT DIPS
Greek yogurt or cottage cheese can be a great substitute for mayonnaise, cream cheese and other cream-based dips, says Goodson. Try mixing ranch seasoning in yogurt, pureeing cottage cheese into your spinach dip, or just choosing a more nutrient-dense dip, like hummus or guacamole.
4. CHOOSE LEAN PROTEINS
Look for lean ground beef if you’re making burgers or try ground turkey. Grill or bake wings instead of frying them, and try incorporating other lean protein options like deli meat and cheese roll-ups into your menu, suggests Goodson.
5. LIGHTEN UP DESSERT
Instead of cookies, brownies and other sugary fare, lighten up dessert with a fruit platter or fruit skewers. “Bite-size desserts can be a good option to help with portion control,” Goodson adds.
5 FOODS TO MAKE AND SERVE ON GAME DAY
With those tips in mind, now you’re ready to prep and serve a healthier game day spread. Below, Goodson shares five of her favorite healthy options for eating during the game.
1. GRILLED PROTEIN AND VEGGIE SKEWERS
“Veggies are a great way to add nutrients and fiber to a game day spread,” she says. Load skewers with chicken or beef, plus your favorite vegetables, and you’ll have a platter full of healthy, portable snacks.
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“Rich in healthy fat and fiber, guacamole can be a great dip,” says Goodson. Consider adding veggie sticks alongside — or in place of — tortilla chips for a healthier option.
3. WHOLE-GRAIN CHICKEN QUESADILLAS
Skip the fake-cheese nachos and instead fill up on whole grains and lean protein. Layer whole-wheat or whole-grain tortillas with grilled chicken, cheese, onions and peppers, and toast until warm. Cut the quesadilla into small triangles for an easy handheld snack everyone can enjoy.
You’ve heard of a charcuterie board. Well, this is like that, but without the board. Goodson suggests making personal-size “jarcuterie” by stuffing small Mason jars with cheese cubes, deli meat roll-ups and vegetables. “It’s perfect for individual servings, and the portability makes it great for snacking and socializing.”
5. ENERGY BITES
Cookies are great — there’s no denying this fact, but energy bites provide a sweet treat without the sugar crash. The best part: They can take nearly any form you like and can include a variety of tasty ingredients. Goodson says to start with nut butter, oats and honey as the base, then add in your favorite flourishes, like dried fruit, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, crushed nuts and seeds. Roll everything into little balls, refrigerate them until set, and they’ll be ready to go at kick off.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Tailgates and game day parties are meant to be fun, so don’t stress too much about what you eat. If you’ve got a craving, go ahead and splurge a little, just try not to go overboard. By planning ahead and swapping some healthier snacks for your usual football-watching foods, you can enjoy the game and feel good when it’s over.
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