When you’re thinking of what to serve for the big game, nutrition still counts. Some Super Bowl favorites are surprisingly healthy, while others are best reserved for an annual indulgence. Here’s a look at ten of the most popular party offerings and a little about the nutrition behind them.
1. Potato Chips
A one-ounce serving of potato chips only has 150 calories, but be honest: do you expect anyone at your Super Bowl party to eat only one serving of chips? Tasty as they are, potato chips consist primarily of carbohydrates and fat with little nutritional value. Nutrition labels tell the whole story, and it isn’t a happy one; skip the chips or indulge in moderation.
Around 50 to 70 percent of the calories of potato chips are negligible fat, making pretzels a healthier crunchy snack. However, they don’t provide much nutrition. If you need crunch, these are one of your best options, but there are healthier possibilities. Try out some carrots or other crispy vegetables.
Depending on how you make them, nachos could be one of your healthiest Super Bowl party foods. While standard tortilla chips are comparable to potato chips in fat and calories, using baked chips that range from 100 to 120 calories per serving can shave a few calories from the dish. Whole-grain tortilla chips also have fiber that contributes to feeling full and helps your digestive health. Go light on cheese and heavy on peppers, salsa and black beans to top your nachos for a healthier snack.
Sure, avocados are high in fat, but they’re also rich in Vitamin C and fiber. Instead of buying guacamole, make your own with fresh avocados, a squeeze of lime juice, and a few spoonfuls of salsa. Salt and pepper it to taste and enjoy it with baked tortilla chips or use it as a sandwich spread.
People chow down on more than 100 million pounds of chicken wings during Super Bowl weekend, according to the National Chicken Council. High in protein and carb-free, chicken wings start off as a healthier Super Bowl menu item. It’s loading them down with buttery sauce and dipping them in creamy blue cheese dressing that turns them into calorie-bombs. Check nutrition labels if you’re buying prepared wings, as they vary significantly in calories. Look for versions that stay below 200 calories per serving.
Lean beef patties on the grill taste so amazing that it’s hard to believe they also pack a nutritional wallop. A standard patty provides between 250 and 300 calories, depending on its size, and gives you about 22 grams of protein. If you indulge in high-fat additions like cheese, mayonnaise and a big pillowy bun, you can top the four-digit mark. Enjoy a healthier, but still delicious, burger by loading it with fresh lettuce, tomato slices, red onions, mustard or relish. The bun doesn’t contribute much nutritionally, so embrace a smaller bun rather than something the size of your head.
Depending on how you make it, a pizza is anything but junk food. Pick thin crust over thick and you’ll get fewer empty calories. Opt for lean meats and plenty of vegetables — think ham, green peppers and onions over traditional pepperoni and sausage — and pair pizza with salad instead of breadsticks. Stick to that formula, and you’ll come in under 250 calories per slice.
Whether you call them subs, po’-boys, heroes or hoagies, sandwiches are huge crowd-pleasers for Super Bowl parties. Pick lean, but flavorful meats like smoked turkey, roast beef and ham for the substance of the sandwich filling. Think of highly flavored lunch meats like salami and mortadella as accents; use a couple of slices on a mostly ham sandwich for a flavor boost with fewer calories. As with burgers, keep the spreads light. Get fancy with the spreads you serve and let guests make their own with olive tapenade, pesto and a selection of spicy mustards instead of heavy mayonnaise.
9. Cheese and Crackers
Cheese is calorie-dense at about 100 to 120 calories an ounce, but it’s also high in protein and rich in calcium. The trick to making cheese work as part of a healthy diet is controlling the portions. Serve a platter of cheese and crackers with sliced apples and bunches of grapes to nibble between bites of cheese. Go with thin baked crackers or shredded varieties made with whole wheat.
A big frosted cake bearing your team’s logo is the perfect dessert for a Super Bowl party. Sadly, it’s a nutritional wasteland, bringing little to the table but carbs and fats to the tune of 250 calories per slim slice. On the other hand, the Super Bowl only happens once a year, so enjoy your cake — just eat it in moderation and send the rest home with guests.
Let nutrition labels help you plan a better Super Bowl Sunday menu. If you pick snacks and crackers with the highest fiber, lowest fat and least high-fructose corn syrup, you’ll be heading in the right direction.
Guest writer Jessica is a specialist in food product and nutrition labels. When she is not writing for LightningLabels.com, you can find her cooking up a storm in her kitchen. All calorie counts and nutrition facts came from Self Nutrition Data.