If the bulk of your Sundays are spent on the couch this time of year—there are no judgments. Football season is meant for idling in front of the television, rooting for your favorite team in addition to attending celebratory cookouts and maybe even a tailgate or two to catch a home game.
For many, it’s tough to think about America’s favorite sport without also envisioning a basket of greasy, glistening Buffalo wings and a platter of cheesy nachos. Some folks (myself included!) get as excited—if not more so—about the food on the table as they do the game itself.
But enjoying the big game doesn’t have to mean packing on pounds and racking up cholesterol points. With the following smart snacking strategies, you can avoid foodie fumbles and score a nutrition win.
1. Pre-game plays
Formulate a healthy eating game plan in advance. If you’re hosting a viewing party, make sure to provide lots of nutritious choices like healthy sweet potato & black bean nachos or mango-red pepper hummus. If you’re watching the game at someone else’s home, offer to bring a few sensible dishes so you can control your own menu, and if you’re hitting your local sports bar, consider ordering better-for-you items such as turkey chili or a salad loaded with fruit, veggies and a squirt of lime juice in exchange for fatty ranch dressing.
Here are a few more simple swaps to consider:
- Forgo the cookies, cake and candy in favor of fresh fruit
- Enjoy a veggie patty or grilled chicken on a whole-wheat bun instead of a cheeseburger on a white bun
- Replace the bacon cheese dip with low-cal salsa and nutrient-rich, paleo coconut guacamole
- Trade fried chips for baked potato chips or SkinnyPop light popcorn
2. Rethink your drinks
What you drink during football games can cause as much dietary damage as the foods you eat. We’re not saying you have to abstain from alcohol—for many, the indulgence is an important part of the experience. We just want to offer up a few suggestions, like opting for light beer over regular beer and keeping the sugary cocktails to a minimum. Another smart strategy, don’t forget to sip on water or seltzer between (or in place of) alcoholic beverages is another smart strategy. If you’re thinking about passing on the alcohol entirely, click here for a magnesium-rich mocktail recipe that will surely win you over.
3. Eat at the half
Instead of mindlessly munching during the entire game, let the countdown clock work in your favor! Commit to nosh only during the brief 12-minute half-time period. This will help you focus on both the action on field and the calories on your plate.
Your team practices before the big game, so why not practice before the big meal? Familiarizing yourself with proper portions ahead of time will help you recognize a serving size when you’re facing off against your favorite football snacks.
5. Don’t stress eat
Don’t let the opposing team’s plays derail your efforts to eat healthy! Instead of reaching for the chips when they’re down by a touchdown (or more), take a deep breath, count to 10, commiserate with a friend or opt for a more nutritious alternative, like crunchy celery sticks. Keep this tip in mind for post-game eating and drinking, whether your team wins or loses, as well.