big game

The Big Game! (Healthy Eating during Sporting Events)

It’s NHL playoff season and you’ve invited all of your buddies over for the big game! At the same time, you’ve also been working steadily on improving your own eating habits and cutting out junk food. What are you going to do???

It’s NHL playoff season and you’ve invited all of your buddies over for the big game!

At the same time, you’ve also been working steadily on improving your own eating habits and cutting out junk food. What are you going to do??? Your friends are going to expect lots of greasy food and plenty of alcohol! Do you just give up and give in?

The answer is: of course not! Whether it’s the playoffs, or some other major sporting event worth celebrating, these parties are normally synonymous with high-fat foods loaded with salt. But, there are ways to “clean up” your parties and make them both nutritious and delicious. Your friends might even thank you!

First, let’s identify the staple foods normally at these sporting parties: chips, peanuts, chicken wings, chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, and finger foods such as cheese, sausage rolls…..and, of course, beer! Munching on these foods over a two or three hour period can result in a fat intake three to four times higher than the daily recommendations, and, subsequently, a caloric intake likely near 4,000–5,000 (the daily recommendation being 2,000–2,500).The sodium (salt) content of these foods can be very high as well, easily exceeding 5,000 mg (2,300 mg being the daily maximum intake).

Overall, it’s a recipe for a health disaster!

There is some good news, however. Many of the foods listed above can easily be substituted or modified into healthier versions. You can also take into consideration the order the food is offered in, how it is presented, the size of the plates being used, and so on.

The first step when planning your party is to pick the foods that you want to offer. Do not be tempted to include junk foods. The host has full control of the settings, and the guests usually abide by it. Below are just some examples of healthy finger foods, appetizers, entrées, desserts & beverages you can include:

  • Veggie/Fruit tray with low-fat dip
  • Fresh Salad (spinach, cranberries, almonds, vinaigrette, quinoa, etc.)
  • Low-fat Cheese and Crackers
  • Smoked Cajun Legs (a giant step up from common place chicken wings and healthier too)
  • Chicken Bites (using lean chicken breast, in a light breading)
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • Bruschetta
  • Chunky Chili (omit salt)
  • Chicken Sliders
  • Higher Fibre Nacho dip
  • Mini Cupcakes
  • Mini Cookies
  • Water (with a twist of lemon or lime)
  • Beer

Avoid offering all the food at one time. Determine an order that you want to present the food in ahead of time. Start with low-calorie and filling foods such as fruits and vegetables, salad, and cheese and crackers, then follow it up with a light appetizer such as bruschetta and sweet potato fries. The entrée should be offered in small portions, such as a chicken slider or mini bowls of chili.

Desserts can be a treat, but keep the portions small. Finally, always make water the first beverage choice (add some lemon or lime slices for flavor). Beer is not a bad option, but keep the fridge or cooler away from the TV.

The next step is to establish a layout for your party. Try to keep the food away from the TV, so guests have to get up to get something to eat. Keep the food on small trays and use small plates, so as to prevent guests from over-consuming the food. Studies have shown that people feel fuller while consuming less food when using a smaller plate. Remember the following:

  • Small plates
  • Small cups
  • Small trays
  • Table away from the TV
  • Pitchers of water/coffee/tea

If you can pull off a party with these suggestions, you will find that both your friends and your health will be satisfied. People enjoy good-tasting food and an entertaining environment. Don’t make excuses for hosting a healthier party. Most people will be unaware of the modifications unless you actively tell them.

Go team!

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