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This Football Season, Pass on Game-Day Indulgences

October 20, 2016

Who doesn’t love to tailgate? The rowdy fans, the barbecue and the beer all make for an unforgettable Sunday afternoon.

Even if you’re not at the game, chances are you’re on the couch with a bunch of snacks. Chips, cheesy dips and wings are all game-day staples, and football season comes with so many goodies that aren’t the healthiest things we should consume. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more Americans need to take a pass on game-day indulgences to stay heart healthy. Here’s how:

Game-Day Meats

Grilling is common during football season, but AHA recommends choosing leaner cuts of meat for the grill. Portion-control is important, too. A perfect portion is no larger than a deck of cards (about 3 oz.). Along with portion-control, opt for healthy substitutions like chicken, turkey or salmon burgers. If you can’t resist the beef patty, make it lean or extra-lean — 90-93 percent lean is the best alternative.

Skip the Sides and Say Yes to Skewers

Swap fries, chips and dips for veggies or air popped popcorn with a light spritz of olive oil and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese plus seasoning.  My favorite is rosemary and black pepper.  Or for a sweeter option, try apple pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla. You’ll still get the crunch and flavor, but without the added calories. Not a fan? Then try grilled corn (skip the butter) or roasted skewers with lean protein, zucchini, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Even Brussels Sprouts make a great addition to skewers.  Try marinating in balsamic vinegar to tone down bitterness and bring out sweetness. 

Salsa and bean-based dips are good substitutions to high-calorie dips. Making your own is better than the store-bought stuff, too. This way you can make healthy substitutions using healthier ingredients, like creamy spinach dip with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or a spicy cauliflower or hummus dip. No one likely will know the difference.

Drink in Moderation

I know that no one is going to skip a beer on game day, but try not to overindulge. AHA recommends no more than two alcoholic beverages a day. If you do plan to drink, opt for lower-calorie drinks and stay away from sugar-filled sodas. A Budweiser Select is only 55 calories, while a Miller 64 is only 64 calories. Also stay as hydrated as you can. Carry a few bottles of water with you and drink them after each beer to pace yourself.

Make it Yourself

Just because something advertises itself as healthy or low-carb doesn't mean it’s actually a good or healthful alternative. Read the labels when you shop for game-day food, or better yet, make as much food as you can yourself. Ask your guests to bring their favorite healthy alternative, so they have a stake in your plan to eat better, too.

Football season is a fun time of year, but that’s no excuse to eat unhealthy from September through February. Instead of cheese and sausage dips, Buffalo wings and endless bottles of beer, practice moderation and swap high-calorie game-day staples for flavorful, healthier alternatives. By the end of the season, your waistline and your heart will be thankful that you took it easy.