One month into 2017, many resolutions have come and gone. Some faithful dieters are still sticking to their guns and cutting calories and increasing exercise. Often by the time the Big Game rolls around the first Sunday in February, healthy habits can go out the window. After all, Super Bowl food is rarely super-healthy.
So, how can you enjoy a favorite American pastime that includes indulgent food and drink without sabotaging your healthy goals? Is it possible to indulge in delicious food while maintaining your health and wellness goals?
The answer is, absolutely!
A common misconception about healthy eating is that it can be either healthy OR tasty; healthy OR convenient; healthy OR affordable, but certainly not all those things. The truth is, nutritious food can be all of the above -- nutritious food can be tasty, convenient, and affordable -- and with a little thought, planning, and preparation, all of that can be accomplished at your game day party this year.
Just because a food may be lower in certain nutrients (i.e. sodium, fat, and calories) doesn’t mean it will be lower in flavor. If you’re hosting this year, consider a fun theme of “Build Your Own Super (Food) Bowl.” People love choices, and this menu idea will surely prove to be a huge hit with the wide array of options. Think base + protein + lots of sides = nutritious, delicious, and a satisfying indulgence on game day.
Whatever healthy resolutions you’ve made for yourself, a good rule of thumb is to focus on protein + fiber + healthy fats to keep your belly full and your body well-nourished. Here are some tips:
Power up with Protein: digesting protein burns more calories than digesting carbs or fat. This is known as the thermal effect of food metabolism. Protein helps maintain muscle mass, body strength, and healthy tissues. Eating protein also tends to curb your appetite. Need we say more about the power of protein? Include lean protein such as eggs, chicken, seafood, grass-fed beef, and nuts/seeds.
Focus on Fiber: when you eat high-fiber foods, you only absorb about 75-80% of the calories you consume, and your body gets rid of the rest. Fiber provides bulk to your diet, keeps you regular, and helps your body eliminate excess waste. Fruit, veggies, and nuts and seeds are excellent sources of fiber, while also providing necessary vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that your body craves.
Fill up on Fat: Healthy fats prevent rapid spikes and drops in insulin levels, keeping your hunger at bay. Plus, fat tastes delicious! Banish your fear of fat and enjoy healthy fats throughout the day such as avocado, coconut, salmon, olives, dry roasted nuts and seeds, almond butter, and extra virgin olive oil.
Different foods have varying effects on your satiety (sense of fullness). When you eat chicken, grilled veggies, and avocado, for example, (i.e. protein + fiber + healthy fat), you feel fuller sooner than when you eat desserts, chips, and soda, and you typically take in fewer calories.
Super (Food) Bowls
Have guests build their own Super (Food) Bowl with plenty of options that are sure to pack a punch in flavor, nutrition, and satisfaction!
Base: cauliflower rice, low-sodium black beans, quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, or zucchini noodles
Protein: bacon-wrapped shrimp, flavorful grilled chicken bites, shredded barbacoa, or zesty beef meatballs
Sides: avocado slices, cilantro, lemon/lime wedges, toasted nuts, pitted olives, low-fat shredded cheese, and raw or sautéed veggies, such as mushrooms, onion, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, and shredded cabbage
Dips/Sauces: guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, greek yogurt dip, or hummus
Don’t forget dessert! Offer a beautiful, colorful tray of fresh fruit that your guests won’t be able to resist.
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Lizzy McCrary, RDN, LD, is the outpatient dietitian for the Methodist Digestive Institute at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. She was born and raised in Dallas, and attended the University of Arkansas where she received a bachelor’s degree in Food, Human Nutrition and Hospitality. She completed a dietetic internship at Baylor University Medical Center, and has been with Methodist Dallas since 2015. She enjoys sports, cooking, and compulsively-watching those speedy cooking videos on the internet!