It's the most wonderful time of the year -- football season is about to get into full swing. Man, there's nothing like this time of year, especially for a northern boy like me. The days are getting shorter, the air is finally starting to chill, and I have season tickets to Penn State football!
If you're like me, you'll soon be celebrating the wins -- and mourning the losses -- with food and drink. It's called tailgating... even when it's done in my TV room, where the only tail belongs to my dog Scruffy.
And it's something that usually leaves us feeling like a pig after watching the pigskin fly all day Saturday, all day Sunday and on Monday night.
This week, Mr. Bad Food teams up with Making Weight Control Second Nature author Susan Burke-March to score a football-watching party you'll enjoy without any of the post-game guilt.
Catch these tips for great-tasting, healthy snacks and foods that won't fumble away your diet progress. Then be sure to stick around for the post-game stats on the "bad foods" you tackled during your last football binge.
Susan urges you to party hearty, party healthy!
"Listen, all you sports fans: Sitting around drinking brews and sodas, chowing on fatty wings, chips and dips won't help you make the cut," Susan says.
"Score a nutritional touchdown and serve healthy snacks."
1. Always choose baked chips instead of fried. Tortilla chips and potato chips come in different baked flavors. Crunching the numbers, it looks like you can save up to 30 percent of the calories of fried chips. The label words "fat free" or "reduced fat" do not mean calorie free -- watch your portion size!
2. Serve bean dip instead of regular sour-cream dip. Filling and flavorful bean dip has only 46 calories per 3 tablespoons compared to more than double that for full-fat sour cream.
3. Nuts are nutritious, but they add up quickly. Serve a giant bowl of air-popped popcorn flavored with buttery cooking spray and sprinkled with dehydrated butter granules. I like Butter Buds or Molly McButter. It's delicious with only 60 calories for three cups, only a trace of fat and a lot less sodium than salty store-bought popcorn. You'll save some 280 calories, 28 grams of fat and 330 milligrams of sodium over the regular microwave popcorn.
4. Replace your fried mozzarella sticks with chicken skewers. They're really popular and always a great party food. You can buy them already prepared (try your local warehouse grocery), and save 188 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 546 milligrams of sodium over the same-sized portion of the ooey-gooey stick-to-your-thighs fried cheese.
5. Serve a healthy submarine sandwich. Whole-wheat hero rolls give you that extra added fiber and nutrition (not to mention taste!) compared to boring old white bread. Layer on turkey breast, lean roast beef or lean ham, shredded lettuce and tomato slices, then cut into 2"-wide portions and serve with onions and pickles.
6. Keep the calories in check by using low-fat mayonnaise, and naturally low-calorie ketchup and mustard. Fat-free dressings should always be offered to guests. The new varieties are so good you won't miss the fat!
7. Imbibe with caution -- those brews can really add up! One full-strength "regular" beer ranges between 150-200 calories. Instead, head off pot-belly problems by serving light beer that packs 100 or fewer calories per bottle. A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 100 calories, as does 1 ounce of alcoholic spirits such as vodka, gin or scotch. Serve a variety of diet sodas, flavored club sodas and keep a big cooler with individual bottles of spring water.
8. Make smart substitutions! Don't forget that substituting juice for regular soda is like substituting regular sour cream for mayonnaise -- you're not going to save calories! An 8-ounce glass of juice, unsweetened, has about 120 calories. Offer club soda with a splash of 100-percent juice and a piece of fresh lemon or lime for a lower-calorie, refreshing beverage.
9. Don't be such a dip! Any dried dip mix will do, but instead of regular sour cream, add 1/2 cup of nonfat sour cream, 1/2 cup of nonfat mayonnaise, and 3/4 cup of diced fresh tomatoes, 1/4 cup of chopped green onion, and 1/4 cup of chopped ripe olives, rinsed and drained. Mix and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
10. Roll out the crudites! Everyone likes crunchy veggies, especially when served with a tasty dip. Buy pre-washed and cut-up veggies and you're ready to go with zero prep time.
Susan's last-minute advice to all us partygoers: "I want everyone to get up and do 100 jumping jacks at halftime!"
Sure, Susan... we'll get right on that. But first it's time for the 2-minute nutritional drill, featuring some of your favorite tailgate foods:
• Those salty nachos with the orangey goop they call cheese packs 1,530 calories and 105 grams of fat.
• A ballpark frank scores another 265 calories and 15 grams of fat.
• A bratwurst and bun runs you some 430 calories and 25 grams of fat.
• A single slice of a pepperoni pizza will cut you about 180 calories and 7 grams of fat.
• French fries smell good, but can easily stink up your diet with 530 calories and 25 grams of fat.
John "Mr. Bad Food" McGran is editor of the DiettoGo.com website and newsletter. If you'd like him to write about anything diet- or fitness-related, simply leave a comment below.
Author: John McGran