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Easy Swaps to Slim Down Super Bowl Sunday

author image Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
Julie Upton is co-founder of Appetite for Health and is a certified sports dietitian who has been writing since 1994. She is a nationally recognized journalist who has contributed to "The New York Times," "Shape" and "Men's Health." Upton is also the coauthor of "The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health's 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions." She holds a Master of Science in nutrition communications.

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Easy Swaps to Slim Down Super Bowl Sunday
Don't let Super Bowl party food sabotage your diet. Photo Credit: KarpenkovDenis/iStock/GettyImages

Even though the Super Bowl isn’t officially a national holiday in the U.S., Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year in snack-food consumption and second only to Thanksgiving in overall food consumption. But unlike Thanksgiving where — for most celebrants at least — a balanced meal is central to the occasion, the four major food groups on Super Bowl Sunday are chips and dip, pizza, wings and beer. A football fan’s game day calorie consumption can easily match — or exceed — that of an offensive lineman’s (5,000-plus calories a day). Between the pizza, fried food and alcohol, it’s easy to eat and drink more than 2,000 calories just during the hours while the big game is on TV. Since chances are you won’t be out on the field burning off all that food, here are some substitutions to make a healthier and winning Super Bowl party menu.

1. CHICKEN: Tenders and Skewers Instead of Fried Wings
Chicken tenders that are grilled are a healthy option. Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Getty Images

1 CHICKEN: Tenders and Skewers Instead of Fried Wings

According to the National Chicken Council, Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest wing-eating day of the year, with more than 1.23 billion wings consumed during Super Bowl weekend. Because they are often batter-coated and fried, chicken wings are among the foods we recommend you put on the bench. They look puny, but they can pack in about 100 calories each if they’re breaded and fried. Instead, broil, bake or grill chicken tenders (made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts) on skewers in a hot sauce. Wings aren’t complete without ranch or blue cheese dressing, but since these dressings have about 125-150 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, opt for a light option or make your own with nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Related: What's Really Inside Those McDonald's Chicken McNuggets?

2. GUACAMOLE: Good Fat Instead of Bad Fat
Dips make up a large portion of the calories consumed during the Super Bowl. Photo Credit: iStock

2 GUACAMOLE: Good Fat Instead of Bad Fat

Guacamole is always a game day party food favorite, and fans are expected to eat more than 100 million pounds of it on Super Bowl Sunday. All that guac is great because avocados are nutrient-rich and provide heart-smart mono- and polyunsaturated fats. But be sure to choose a recipe that calls for vegetables like tomato, onions, corn or peppers for more nutritional oomph. Because avocados are naturally rich and creamy, forgo guacamole recipes that call for mayo or sour cream. A serving (2 tablespoons) of most store-bought guacamole has about 120 calories and 10 grams of fat.

Recipe and Nutritional Info**:** Easy Guacamole Recipe

3. SHRIMP: Grilled Instead of Fried
Grilled shrimp is another healthy alternative to the deep fried stuff. Photo Credit: William Berry/iStock/Getty Images

3 SHRIMP: Grilled Instead of Fried

Whether they’re frozen or fresh, you can’t go wrong with shrimp appetizers at your party — as long as they’re not fried. A great source of lean protein that contains only 8 calories apiece, you can serve shrimp bruschetta or garlic grilled shrimp. If you’re looking for a tasty shrimp recipe that will score a touchdown on Super Bowl Sunday, give our seared shrimp with tomato and avocado a try (recipe below). It’s easy to make, low in calories and provides a shot of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat from the rich and creamy avocado. Or keep things simple by serving the standard shrimp cocktail. Like other tomato-based condiments, cocktail sauce is low in calories (just 18 calories per tablespoon), so it’s the perfect topper for those jumbo prawns.

Recipe and Nutritional Info**:** Seared Shrimp with Tomato and Avocado

4. DIPS: Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream
Dips make up a large portion of the calories consumed on Super Bowl Sunday. Photo Credit: iStock

4 DIPS: Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream

Dips can derail a healthy diet faster than just about any party food. The standard crowd-pleasers may be cheesy or creamy, but they also add more than 100 calories and 10 grams of additional fat per each serving (2 tablespoons). There are better alternatives like white or black bean dips, hummus or simply substituting plain Greek yogurt in for sour cream in your dip recipe. A cup of regular sour cream packs in 445 calories and 45 grams of fat. Compare that to a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt which contains about 130 calories and zero fat. For each cup of Greek yogurt swapped in for sour cream, you’ll shave 315 calories and 45 grams of fat from your recipe.

Recipe and Nutritional Info**:** Healthier Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe on MyPlate

5. CHIPS: Baked Instead of Fried
Baked chips can be just as satisfying as the fried variety. Photo Credit: iStock

5 CHIPS: Baked Instead of Fried

Potato chips are the most popular snack served at Super Bowl parties. At 150 calories and 9-10 grams of fat per serving, potato chips will contribute some 27 billion calories to fans’ total calorie consumption on game day. To help contain the calories of fried potato chips, look for baked versions instead. For example, a serving of baked chips (1 oz. or about 20 chips) contains about 120 calories and 3 grams of fat. To make things even healthier, you can also serve up plenty of fresh-cut veggies to offer your guests the crunch of chips with vitamins and without the empty calories of chips.

6. MEXICAN 7-LAYER DIP: Less Fat and Processed Ingredients
Mexican layer dip is a popular dish on Super Bowl Sunday. Photo Credit: iStock

6 MEXICAN 7-LAYER DIP: Less Fat and Processed Ingredients

A traditional Mexican 7-layer dip includes a lot of high-calorie ingredients like cheese, sour cream, and refried beans, but you can make this game-day favorite healthier with a few defensive maneuvers: First, instead of fat-rich refried beans, start with a bottom layer of chopped iceberg lettuce, then add the following layers in this order: spicy black beans, guacamole, salsa, sliced olives, scallions and a few dollops of plain Greek yogurt topped with chopped cilantro. Serve with baked tortilla chips. It will taste just as yummy, but it’s much healthier this way.

7. RANCH DIP: Cottage Cheese and Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream
Easy swaps make an otherwise calorie-heavy dip, diet-friendly. Photo Credit: Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images

7 RANCH DIP: Cottage Cheese and Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream

The Super Bowl sidekick to wings and potato chips is ranch dip. But most ranch dip recipes are made with sour cream, so they have about 100 calories and 10 grams of fat per 2-tablespoon serving. You can easily make rich, thick and creamy ranch dip with cottage cheese and Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream to increase the filling protein while reducing the saturated fat.

Recipe and Nutritional Info**:** Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip Recipe

8. POPCORN: Natural Instead of Artificial Flavoring
Pop corn naturally rather than indulging in the artificial kind. Photo Credit: Izaphoto/iStock/Getty Images

8 POPCORN: Natural Instead of Artificial Flavoring

Popcorn is a Super Bowl snack you can feel good about since it’s a whole grain and a high-quality carbohydrate. It’s also low in calories, at about 100 calories per 3 cups of air-popped popcorn. In addition, research shows that compared to potato chips, popcorn exerts a stronger effect on short-term satiety (our fullness factor). This makes popcorn a terrific option for those wanting to reduce feelings of hunger while managing energy intake and ultimately, body weight. Skip chemical- and calorie-filled artificial butter flavoring and jazz up your popcorn with store-bought natural seasoning blends or experiment with your own herbs and spices to take this whole-grain power snack from everyday to gourmet.

9. NUTS: In-Shell Instead of Shelled
A bowl of nuts. Photo Credit: MariaArefyeva/iStock/Getty Images

9 NUTS: In-Shell Instead of Shelled

Fans will eat some 2.5 million pounds of nuts during the Super Bowl. Since eating while watching TV is linked to overeating, in-shell pistachios provide unique advantages to other nuts; they are lower in calories than many other nuts and have nearly 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per ounce (49 nuts). What’s more, the simple process of cracking the nuts out of the shells also makes pistachios a more mindful snack. In one behavioral nutrition study published in the journal Appetite, snackers who were given in-shell pistachios ate 41 percent fewer calories than those who snacked on shelled pistachios; however, even though subjects eating in-shell nuts ate fewer calories, there were no differences in fullness or satisfaction between groups. The research suggests that the empty shells act as a visual cue to remind you of just how much you’ve eaten, helping you to avoid eating too much.

Related: Nuts That Are High in Magnesium & Potassium

10. ALCOHOL: Light Beer Instead of Cocktails
Choose light beer instead of calorie-laden cocktails. Photo Credit: u_t_a/iStock/Getty Images

10 ALCOHOL: Light Beer Instead of Cocktails

Beer sales from grocery stores, convenience stores, and liquor stores in the hours leading up to the Super Bowl equaled some 50 million cases of beer, making beer one of the unofficial food groups of the Super Bowl. The good news is that there are many light and ultra-light options available to make it easier for calorie-conscious consumers to enjoy a few brewskis. You can find some ultra-light beers as low as 55 calories, and many varieties of light beer are around 100 calories a bottle. Regular beer has 150 calories per 12 ounces. Drinking distilled spirits will set you back about 100 calories per 1.5 ounce, but that doesn’t include the calories in fruit juice or soda that are often used to make mixed drinks.

Related: What Really Happens When You Drink

11. SANDWICHES: Customized Instead of One-Size-Fits-All
Customize your sandwiches rather than order a one-size-fits-all submarine. Photo Credit: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

11 SANDWICHES: Customized Instead of One-Size-Fits-All

Submarine sandwiches are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and they can be the healthiest main dish you serve – especially compared to other Super Bowl favorites, like pizza, wings, and pigs in a blanket -- as long as you stay away from meatballs, pulled pork or cheesesteak as your fillings. Make the hoagies yourself or serve up sandwich party trays and let your guests make their own — either way, your subs should include lean cold cuts, cheese and lots of veggie add-ons like leaf lettuce, grilled mushrooms, tomato and onion slices, roasted red peppers, grated carrots, and pickles. Use better-for-you condiments, including a variety of mustards, light mayo and pesto. When it comes to the bread, choose whole-grain rolls or baguettes whenever possible.

12. CHILI: Extra-Lean Meat Instead or Regular Ground Beef
Chili can be nutrient-rich, healthy and satisfying. Photo Credit: Ju-Lee/iStock/Getty Images

12 CHILI: Extra-Lean Meat Instead or Regular Ground Beef

With a few substitutions, you can transform traditional chili from flab to fab. Many chili recipes call for ground beef, cheese and sour cream, all of which are loaded with saturated fat. In place of ground beef, use extra-lean ground sirloin, bison or ground turkey or chicken (white meat only) and our yummy chili recipe is loaded with fiber- and protein-rich beans. Studies show that regular consumption of beans helps to improve cardiovascular health and enhances weight loss. Additionally, beans (in particular the white variety used in our recipe) help to prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar. Give our waistline-friendly chili a try for a game-day dish that’s sure to be a winner! The extra kick from Tabasco sauce may even help rev up your metabolism.

Recipe and Nutritional Info**:** Super Bowl White Chili Recipe

13. PIZZA: Thin Crust Instead of Regular Crust
Pizza is synonymous with Super Bowl Sunday. Photo Credit: Olha_Afanasieva/iStock/Getty Images

13 PIZZA: Thin Crust Instead of Regular Crust

Sure, ooey, gooey, cheesy pizza is a classic Super Bowl party pleaser, but think twice before you grab a slice. Two slices of a traditional 14-inch cheese pizza weigh in at 625 calories and 24 grams of fat -- and that’s without any meat toppings. The good news is that there is a simple way to slash the calories and pump up the nutrition of pizza without sacrificing on the flavor: Order an extra-thin crust (whole grain if it’s available), ask for half the cheese and double the fiber-rich veggies. If you do that, you can enjoy a slice for less than 200 calories.

14. BROWNIE: Applesauce Instead of Butter
No one will ever notice the sneaky substitute of applesauce for the butter in these brownies. Photo Credit: Brett Hofacker/iStock/Getty Images

14 BROWNIE: Applesauce Instead of Butter

Instead of indulging in rich, calorie-laden cheesecake or scarfing down jumbo-sized cookies and brownies to satisfy your game day sweet tooth, try these delicious, portion-conscious skinny dark chocolate brownie bites, which are made with coffee and unsweetened applesauce. A typical 2-inch brownie square has around 240 calories and 10 grams of fat. These brownie bites are significantly lower in calories, fat, and sugar and are portion-controlled at just 79 calories a pop.

Recipe and Nutritional Info**:** Skinny Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites

What Do YOU Think?
Photo Credit: Alexander Hafemann/iStock

What Do YOU Think?

What’s your favorite Super Bowl snack or recipe? Did you already know about some of these healthy substitutions? Which ones will you try? Do you know of other swaps to make Super Bowl party foods healthier? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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