Dima Gavrysh  /  AP
If you skip the pepperoni, pizza, especially when topped with vegetables, can be good party food.
updated 2/2/2007 12:45:57 PM ET 2007-02-02T17:45:57

For many football fans, Super Bowl Sunday is a greasy junk food orgy of chicken wings, nachos, gooey pizza and seven-layer bean dip. But health experts say it doesn’t have to be a dieter’s nightmare.

Die-hard Bears fan Scott Keiler plans to spend Sunday with friends in a bar, watching the game and gobbling down pizza and wings.

“I’m always glued to the set but I love food. It’s usually a part that’s almost as important as the game,” said Keiler, 26, a Chicago-area magazine representative.

Nowhere will the gluttonous revelry be as intense as in Chicago and Indianapolis, whose teams face off this year.

Lisa Farley, a nutritionist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said there are generally two kinds of football fans: “Couch potatoes who sit back and watch it all happen” — they tend to eat more — and those who get physical.

Go ahead and jump off the couch, throw your hat on the ground and pace while riveted to the screen, Farley suggests. It burns more calories — and keeps your hands from automatically grabbing more food.

Data from the NPD Group, a market-research firm, shows that Americans’ consumption of salty snacks, pizza, cookies and Mexican dishes skyrockets during the big game compared with usual Sundays.

“It’s hard to have a Super Bowl party without the good stuff,” said football fan Nik Verma, an orthopedic surgeon in Chicago.

Reach for it
Dr. Robert Kushner, professor of medicine at Northwestern University, offered another way to break the couch potato tradition.

“Try spending a quarter of the game on a treadmill,” Kushner said. “That way you can run along with your favorite receiver.”

Or, put out weights, resistance bands and balance balls for your party guests.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

“If you’re going to sit and watch the game, you’re actually going to develop more muscular toning by sitting on a fitness ball rather than a couch,” he said.

“It’s really not as hokey as it sounds,” he added. “It would actually be a fun theme-party idea.”

If you’re the party host, place the food beyond the reach of those on the couch, ideally in a different room, said Jennifer Ventrelle, a dietitian at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.

“If you have to get up to get your food, you’re being a little more active” and it cuts down on unconscious gorging in front of the TV, Ventrelle said.

Don't go hungry
Julie Burns, a sports dietitian who has worked with the Chicago Bears, said hosts should consider offering healthy foods including vegetable trays along with the snacks — maybe even carrots and blueberries for an orange-and-blue Bears theme, or blueberries and shredded coconut for the Colts’ blue and white.

Foods like chili can be made healthier by using turkey or lean meat and lots of beans, along with brown rice, Burns said.

Pizza topped with lots of vegetables, salsa instead of fatty creamy dips and baked tortilla chips instead of fried are other good alternatives.

“There’s ways of making junk food healthier,” said dietitian Laura Palmer with Purdue University’s Cooperative Extension Service in West Lafayette, Ind.

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast and avoiding going hungry to a Super Bowl party can reduce the temptation to gorge on junk food during the game, experts say. And to avoid overimbibing when the beer starts flowing, they suggest alternating drinks with glasses of water.

A rabid Colts fan, Farley said she’s going to a Super Bowl party where she knows there will be fattening food. She said partygoers should acknowledge they are going to eat some junk, but also vow, “For every cookie, I’m going to eat a carrot.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments