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Snack Smart on Super Bowl Sunday

Jul 15, 2014
If you're like most Americans, you're likely gearing up for Super Bowl Sunday, a tradition built around football, fun, family, friends, and, of course, food! Whether you're an avid sports fan who has been counting down the days until Super Bowl Sunday, or someone who simply enjoys any excuse to get together with family and friends for a celebration, chances are you'll be surrounded by tempting snacks. The big game often brings fried, fat-filled fare that could spell diet disaster. However, there are a few smart snacks that won't wreck your healthy eating plan. Bring one of these foods with you to the party or seek them out once you get there.

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Fresh veggies such as carrots, cucumber, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower or whole-wheat pita chips dipped in hummus is always a safe and delicious option. Hummus is high in protein and packs a flavorful punch, and vegetables are low-calorie and full of fiber, which helps keep hunger at bay. If hummus isn't your favorite, dip vegetables in a low-fat dip or dressing.

Chili, a Super Bowl Sunday staple, is typically high in fat and calories. However, if made with extra-lean ground beef or turkey (or vegetarian), chili can be a surprisingly healthy dish. Use several different types of beans and add lots of chopped vegetables, including different varieties of peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, etc. Get creative with this crock-pot creation by varying the ingredients and tossing in lots of spices for extra flavor. This fiber-packed dish will keep you satisfied well into the fourth quarter of the big game.

Another smart game-day choice is popcorn. We're not talking about popcorn swimming in a pool of butter or flavored with excessive amounts of powdered cheese, but air-popped popcorn or microwaveable bags that are 94% fat-free will help keep your hands and mouth busy while you enjoy the game. To keep portions in check, opt for 100-calorie bags of popcorn.

Fresh fruit is a delicious and light choice. Arrange colorful and flavorful apple slices, grapes, melon, berries, or other fruity favorites on a tray, or try kicking up the wow factor by making little fruit kebobs with colorful skewers or toothpicks.

If you like your snacks crunchy and salty, steer clear of those greasy potato chips or fried potato skins. Opt for baked potato or tortilla chips dipped in salsa. Pretzels are another light option--try dipping them in mustard for extra flavor.

Beer and other alcoholic drinks are abundant on Super Bowl Sunday, but the calories in these drinks can add up fast. Choose light beer or cocktails made with diet soda or seltzer, and limit yourself to one or two drinks so you're not regretting the extra calories (or the headache) the next day.

The bottom line: Choosing healthier options allows you to enjoy the game with your loved ones without feeling deprived. However, portion control is important, even when eating nutritious food. Take the focus off of the food and spend time socializing and enjoying the game.

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.

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