Typical Super Bowl party food such as pizza, chicken wings, chips and dip can carry a surprising amount of calories and fat, dietitians said. Even a “relatively modest consumption” of those foods can add up to 2,000 calories and 81 grams of fat, according to the Calorie Control Council.
That can be hard for people to put into perspective, said public health advocate Dr. Charles Platkin, a professor at Hunter College and editor of DietDetective.com.
“If you tell them, ‘Oh, that’s 400 calories,’ what does that mean?” he said. So Platkin puts it another way, in terms of what it would take to burn off all those calories. Two handfuls of potato chips would require running a football field 49 times. Three slices of pepperoni-laden pizza would require 300 minutes of stadium cleaning.
“That’s one of the reasons why putting this information in a digestible (pun intended) form is important,” he said.
Jessica Holland puts 2,000 calories into perspective in a different way.
“You could get in your whole day’s worth of calories in that one sitting,” said the registered dietitian at Doctors Hospital.
That kind of eating might be behind the weight gain some NFL fans say they have already seen this season. In a survey of fans commissioned by the Nutrisystem weight loss program, 25 percent said they gained 10 pounds this season and 16 percent said they gained 20 pounds or more. It is not hard to see how that could happen during a three-hour game, Holland said.
“That sitting and eating on top of drinking your calories and then not wanting to do any kind of physical activity later on, that can definitely make you gain weight,” she said.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and there are some strategies that will allow you to enjoy the party without pounding down the fat and calories.
• If possible, put the food in a different room and don’t sit in front of it. “If the food is right in front of you, you are more likely to continue eating even though you’re probably full,” said Andy Yurechko, a registered dietitian at Georgia Regents Medical Center. It can take up to 30 minutes for a signal to reach the brain that you are full so it is important to give yourself time.
• Add the veggies. “The fiber from the vegetables will help to keep you full and satisfied longer, therefore maybe causing you not to eat quite as much,” Holland said. But beware of the dip that often accompanies vegetable trays, which can quickly add calories and fat, Yurechko said.
• Make smart substitutes. Instead of a high-fat dip, try a yogurt-based dip or hummus or salsa, the dietitians said,
• Drinks count, too. “Your sodas and sweet tea add up really quickly,” Holland said. “I would say just drink water, and try to cut out those extra calories if you do know you’re going to eat more.”
• Alcohol can be a double-whammy. Not only can it add a lot of empty calories, “it can stimulate the appetite even when the person is already full,” Yurechko said.
• Savor what you eat. “Before you take a chip with dip, make sure you’re thinking about it and enjoy every bite,” Platkin said. “You’ll probably consume less and you’ll have more enjoyment.”
And that is really the crux of the smarter Super Bowl party strategy, he said.
“It’s not to not indulge,” Platkin said. “It is to be mindful.”
Getting more exercise to offset what you eat is a good idea, too, Platkin and Holland said. But Yurechko said you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you do go overboard.
“We all enjoy food. Food is a part of our lives,” he said. “And overdoing it one day isn’t going to kill you necessarily. It isn’t going to destroy your diet.”