When it comes to hosting a Super Bowl party, it would be wise to keep portions small and offer lower-fat or lower-calorie options for those guests struggling to maintain their weight. (Photo courtesy Google Images)

When it comes to hosting a Super Bowl party, it would be wise to keep portions small and offer lower-fat or lower-calorie options for those guests struggling to maintain their weight. (Photo courtesy Google Images)

I grew up in a household where there was always a sports game on the TV, and for our Super Bowl parties we pulled out all the stops. Specific dishes, family recipes and themed meals were prepared for all to enjoy, just as if it was another holiday gathering. Depending on the weather we either did a barbecue with chicken and tri-tip or a one-pot dish like chili. Finger-licking finger foods and appetizers were always available.
The American Institute of Food Distribution says that Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest day for food consumption, just behind Thanksgiving. All those fatty finger foods, rich dips and starchy chips can pose a serious challenge for those who may have set New Year’s resolutions to try to eat healthier and become more active. Most of my clients have been working diligently over the past few weeks to make change and stick with it, and the Super Bowl is usually the first significant hurdle they face in the new year.
Because it’s so easy to sit glued to the TV watching the game or the multi-million dollar commercials, I’ve compiled a few helpful tips to balance your Super Bowl party with tasty but healthy options or ideas to help you stick to your New Year’s resolution when attending such festivities.
• Set up a buffet table.
It’s tempting to just plop finger foods and chips and dips on the coffee table in front of your guests. This can lead to mindless eating, spills, and the potential for double dipping. Set up the buffet table in another room; maybe the adjacent dining room. That way guests can take a clean plate and napkin, serve themselves a small portion, and return to their seat.
• Offer lower fat or lower calorie options for your guests.
If you’re having a barbecue, cook chicken breasts or lean chicken or turkey sausages with the higher fat meats such as hamburgers or ribs. If you opt for a one-pot dish or casserole like lasagna, make sure you have a lighter hot dish too. Always offer a tossed salad with a protein like a Chinese chicken salad that can be plated as a side dish or chosen as a guest’s main course.
• Always include a vegetable and fruit platter.
Not only are these easy to prepare or purchase, they are a simple alternative for yourself and your guests who are trying to cut calories and fat. Raw veggies can be paired with a non-cream based dip such as hummus or an eggplant baba ghanoush or a low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt dip like my favorite spinach dip I presented in my December column. Fresh fruit can be a dessert alternative for those trying to watch their sugar intake.
• Keep portion sizes small.
Because you will be providing many courses over an extended period of time, prepare appetizer-size portions. Cut meat and casseroles, like lasagna, in half-size servings so you or your guests can sample a couple dishes or one main dish and one or two side dishes.  Also, purchase lunch-size plates for the main spread and appetizer plates for lighter bites and desserts.
• Make available light games for half time.
If you have the room, keep a few footballs or Frisbees around for your guests to toss back and forth so they can get off the couch and digest. Thirty minutes of activity from playing catch doesn’t burn a lot of calories (only 85 calories for a 150-pound person), but throwing the ball rapidly or over long distances can build arm and chest muscles. Plus, it gets you and your guests moving and moving away from food.
Whether you’re watching the Super Bowl or Puppy Bowl come Feb. 3, enjoy your time socializing with friends and family, and feel confident you are offering a well-balanced and healthful spread for your guests. To help, try my version of a winter chili.

The Better Option Winter Chili    
Servings: 6

1 16 oz. package peeled and cubed butternut squash
1/2 pound 7% lean ground sirloin
1/2  pound 7% lean ground turkey
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
2 (14.5 oz.) cans chopped or stewed tomatoes
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. chili powder (optional Chili Kit with chili seasoning blend)
1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
Brown meat with onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper in large chili pot. Add squash, tomatoes and seasoning; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for one hour or until squash is tender. Add kidney beans during last 15 minutes of cooking.
Per Serving: Calories: 220, Fat: 5g (8% of daily value), Sat fat: 1.5g (8% of DV), Protein: 17g, Carbohydrates: 27g (9% of DV), Fiber: 5g (20% of DV), Cholesterol: 50mg (17% of DV); Sodium: 450mg  (19% of DV)

Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. Learn more at  www.eatwelldailynutrition.com

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