As a registered dietitian, Sam Ellefson knows it is the little things that can add up quickly during the Super Bowl party.
Olives, for instance.
“Olives have so many calories and depending on what they’ve been canned in, will have a lot of salt as well,” said Ellefson, of the Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center. “People just grab those by the handful and they don’t realize a handful is well over 100 calories.”
The traditional Super Bowl fare of pizza, chicken wings and chips and dip is not only loaded with fat and calories but also has high levels of sodium, dietitians said. A single slice of pepperoni pizza, for instance, not only has 298 calories and more than 12 grams of fat but 683 milligrams of sodium, according to the CalorieKing Web site. Recommendations call for most people to limit sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day or less, said Cheryl Mehta, a registered dietitian with Diabetes Services at University Hospital.
“So if you eat two slices of pizza, you’re very close to your limit for the day,” she said. A serving of olives has 1,556 milligrams of sodium, in addition to 145 calories and 15 grams of fat, according to CalorieKing.
High levels of sodium increase blood pressure and long periods of elevated blood pressure can lead to hypertension and increase the risk of stroke, Ellefson said. Plus it makes you thirstier and might lead you to drink more. That is another area people often overlook at those parties, Mehta said.
“A lot of times, people don’t think about what they’re drinking. They’re only thinking about what they ate,” she said. But a can of beer can pack 150 calories and a can of soda close to 100.
“If you go there and you have four beers, right there you have a bunch of calories and you haven’t even eaten any food yet,” Mehta said.
All of that has a way of adding up. The Calorie Control Council and the Snack Food Association estimate that the average Super Bowl viewer will eat 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat in snacks alone, not counting meals. Often those snacks are covered in cheese, which adds loads of calories and fat. Mehta said.
“An ounce of cheese has about two slices of bacon in it in terms of the fat,” she said. “That’s a bunch of fat in just a little ounce of cheese.”
Instead, try bringing your own healthy alternative – something with a lot of vegetables and fruit – and fill up on that, the dietitians said. If you’re trying to avoid the sodium, watch out for foods with a long shelf life, Ellefson said.
“Anything that can stay on a shelf at room temperature for a long period of time is probably going to have a lot of sodium in it,” she said.