Fall means football, and for diehard fans, life ? and diet ? as they know it will change for the next five months. From tailgating outside the stadium to catching the game at a friend?s house, the common theme of any game-day event is food. And drink. And plenty of each.
Resisting the temptation to indulge can challenge even the strongest will, especially when hanging out for hours while under stress about the big game. Here are some ways to cope.
Join in: Offer to bring a dish so that you will have at least one relatively nutritious option to count on. And you might be surprised at how well-received some of the better-for-you foods will be, since others likely will be keeping an eye on their weight.
Negotiate: We?re not saying that every game-day bite or sip has to be diet-friendly ? but save the calories for the stuff that?s really worth it to you. At our tailgate, for example, some of my top splurge-worthy foods are my husband?s cheddar and cream cheese stuffed jalapenos, wrapped in bacon and grilled. Or Richard?s fried turkey. Or Rob?s grillades. (Fortunately, they?re not all served on the same day). But I?ll pass on the other calorie-packed foods and drinks that I don?t love as much.
Find alternatives: A few strategic swaps can add up to a savings of thousands of calories and hundreds of grams of carbs, not to mention significantly less saturated fat, in a single game day, and certainly during the course of the football season.
Here are a dozen diet-friendly trade-outs for popular game-day favorites:
- Instead of hummus, switch to salsa to save 150 calories for every four-spoonful serving.
- Instead of Stacy?s Multigrain Pita Chips, try Special K Multigrain Crackers for a third the calories and half the carbs per bite.
- Instead of peanuts, almonds or trail mix, snack on popcorn (even regular, not necessarily low-fat) and save more than 100 calories per handful.
- Instead of using mayonnaise in dips, potato salad and chicken salad, switch to plain nonfat Greek yogurt for more than 90 percent fewer calories and sodium, plus the bonus of an egg?s worth of protein in every quarter cup.
- Instead of regular pork sausage, switch to chicken sausage, which is available in a variety of flavors like Spicy Andouille and Sundried Tomato & Mozzarella, for half the calories and 75 percent less saturated fat.
- Instead of burgers made with ground chuck, use extra-lean ground beef for 40 percent fewer calories and 65 percent less saturated fat.
- Instead of regular Ball Park Beef Franks, switch to turkey hot dogs, chicken hot dogs or 98 percent fat-free hot dogs for a savings of 120 to 140 calories and as much as seven grams of saturated fat per dog.
- Remove the skin and crust from fried chicken for a savings of as much as 300 calories, six grams of saturated fat, and 500 milligrams of sodium per piece.
- Skip the rice (white or brown) in your gumbo and save 120 calories (and 20 grams of carbs) per scoop.
- Instead of making rum punch and other fruity cocktails with regular fruit juices and punch, experiment with a combination of lower-calorie juice options like Diet Ocean Spray Juice Drink (5 calories per cup; artificially sweetened) and Tropicana?s Trop 50 (50 calories per cup; naturally sweetened with stevia) to save 70 to 110 calories and as much as 23 grams of sugar per go-cup.
- Instead of a large frozen daiquiri, sip on skinny margaritas or mojitos for a savings of more than 1,000 calories per drink. Instead of regular light beer or Michelob Ultra, switch to Becks Premium Light or Bud Select 55 for as much as 50 percent fewer calories.
The bottom line: By incorporating even just a few of these key swaps, you?ll still be enjoying great game-day food without blowing all of Monday through Friday?s hard work. And even better: These nutritious swaps can also give you more energy to rock the Dome and Tiger Stadium.
Molly Kimball is a registered dietitian in New Orleans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment and read more at nola.com/health.