By the time the final whistle blows and the winning coach is doused with Gatorade at Super Bowl XLII, Americans will have downed 156 billion-some calories, mostly from greasy pizza, fried chicken wings, and beer.
On average, Americans consume more calories in those few hours flanking the Super Bowl than on any other day of the year but Thanksgiving.
Forget about eating anything else that day.
For that reason, we propose a more reasonable Super Bowl party feast, featuring many of your game-day favorites that skimp on calories and fat - but not flavor.
Start things off with a hearty bowl of chili, pregame or during the first quarter. (Taking the edge off appetites and allowing some time for guests to feel satiated can save hundreds of calories in reflex snacking by halftime.)
Jessica O'Donnell, chef at the Good Dog Bar and Restaurant, who is best known for her heavenly blue-cheese burger, also cooks a lovely chicken and white bean chili.
"I had a regular chili on the menu and come summertime, I wanted to lighten it up a little bit," she said. "But it sold so well, we never went back to the regular chili."
Instead of just subbing chicken for beef, O'Donnell created a new dish, built around tomatillos, jalapeños, white beans, cilantro, lime juice - and tequila, "just for fun."
It's very low in fat, says O'Donnell. But it doesn't taste that way; it's hearty and flavorful, with a punch from the tomatillos.
Similarly, chef Rich Landau had to go well beyond the bland cliches of traditional vegetarian cooking to earn critical success for his Center City vegan restaurant, Horizons.
The Yucatan chopped spinach salad, a longtime favorite on his menu, has been adapted for home cooks in his new cookbook: a lively melange of baby spinach, avocados, jalapeños and tomatoes, coated with a tangy cilantro and lime dressing and garnished with crushed tortilla chips.
We also selected a sure-to-score dish from the Weight Watchers All-Time Favorites cookbook: Thai Chicken Satay skewers, proving that you needn't forfeit your favorite foods in favor of boring carrot sticks and watery lite beers. (See accompanying recipes for all the above dishes.)
David Zinczenko, editor of Men's Health magazine and author of Eat This Not That! (Rodale), also believes that with some simple menu tweaking, you can keep calories and fats under control on game days.
Some of the tips from his book include:
As much as we love them, nachos with cheese can tally nearly 700 calories, 38 grams of fat and 1,600 milligrams of sodium. Keep the cheese on the side and use it sparingly.
Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream as topping or in dips to cut calories. Or substitute guacamole (see recipe) for better nutrient value and heart-smart monounsaturated fats.
In general, at all sporting events, a hot dog with relish, mustard or ketchup (about 280 calories and 15 grams of fat) is a reasonable meal - if you can keep it to one.
If you'd rather not cook, and want to stick with prepared pizza, the national favorite on game day, go with a healthier version. Palermo's Primo Thin frozen pizzas have about one-third less calories and fat per serving than average, and a serving is one-third of the pizza.
At 126 calories, a bottle of Guinness Draught not only tastes great but is competitive with light beers (64 to 120 calories). Limit regular beers (about 139 calories, 12 grams of carbohydrates), ales and stouts (148 to 200 calories and up to 24 grams carbs).
If your guests lean toward spirited drinking, serve Gatorade plain or as a mixer to promote rehydration and help ward off hangovers.
Your guests will thank you in the morning.
Good Dog White Chicken Chili
Makes 10 to 12 servings
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced small
2 jalapeños, sliced thin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2½ pounds ground chicken (see note)
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup tequila
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¾ pound tomatillos, peeled and cut into quarters
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 15-ounce cans white cannellini beans, undrained
2 cups chicken stock (canned is fine if you do not have any homemade on hand)
1/4 cup cornstarch (optional)
Sour cream and grated cheddar cheese, for garnish
1. In a large, shallow, heavy-bottomed pot at medium heat, sweat (cook without browning) garlic, onion and jalapeños in the vegetable oil.
2. Cook for about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent; do not brown. Increase heat to high and add the chicken. Season the meat with a generous amount of salt (I use a coarse kosher salt; if using regular iodized salt, use much less) and pepper.
3. Stir the chicken into the onion mixture, breaking up the chicken as it cooks so that it doesn't clump. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until all pink is gone from the chicken.
4. Drain any excess fat from the pot. Put back on medium heat and add the tequila (I use a silver tequila, but a gold would work as well), the lime juice and the tomatillos. Stir this into the chicken mixture and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
5. Then add the cilantro, chili powder, ground cumin, cannellini beans with liquid, and chicken stock. Stir all of this into the mixture. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
6. Check the seasoning, adjust with salt and pepper to suit your taste.
7. The chili can be served as is, or if you prefer it thicker, add the cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup cold water. Stir this into the chili and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Note: I use an 80/20 mix of dark meat to white meat but all white meat or all dark meat would work just as well.
Per serving (based on 12): 532 calories, 34 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 23 grams fat, trace cholesterol, 240 milligrams sodium, 12 grams dietary fiber
Thai Chicken Satay
Makes 8 servings
2 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, divided use
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced, peeled, fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated lime zest, divided use
2 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided use
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch-long thin strips (about 40)
6 tablespoons light coconut milk
3 tablespoons reduced-fat creamy peanut butter
4 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fish sauce, the onion, the ginger, 1 teaspoon of the lime zest and 2 teaspoons of the lime juice in a large zip-close plastic bag; add the chicken. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag; turn to coat the chicken. Refrigerate, turning the bag occasionally, at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.
2. Meanwhile, soak 40 (6-to-8-inch) wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.
3. To make the peanut sauce, whisk together the coconut milk, peanut butter, honey, remaining 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, 1 teaspoon of lime zest, and the crushed red pepper in a serving bowl until smooth.
4. Spray the broiler rack with nonstick spray and preheat the broiler.
5. Thread the chicken strips onto the skewers. Wrap the end of the skewers in foil to prevent charring. Place the skewers on the broiler rack; broil 4 inches from the heat, turning once, until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve with the peanut sauce.
- From Weight Watchers All Time Favorites (Wiley, 2008)
Per serving: (5 chicken skewers and about 2 tablespoons sauce): 162 calories, 21 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 6 grams fat, 47 milligrams cholesterol, 200 milligrams sodium.
Yucatan Spinach Salad
Makes about 4 servings
For the dressing:
3/4 cup vegan mayo (see note)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup onion or shallot, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or 2 tablespoons for a tangier dressing)
1/4 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1/4 cup water
For the salad:
2 bags baby spinach leaves, washed and trimmed
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
1 cup ripe avocado, diced
1/4 cup red onion, sliced
Crushed tortilla chips to garnish
1. Put all the dressing ingredients in a food processor, puree until smooth, and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Place all salad ingredients, excluding tortilla chips, in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add about half the dressing and toss thoroughly to coat.
4. Taste salad and decide if it needs more dressing. When you have the dressing adjusted to your liking, divide the mixture into four portions on plates.
5. Garnish with crushed tortilla chips and serve immediately.
Per serving (using half of dressing): 356 calories, 10 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 31 grams fat, no cholesterol, 677 milligrams sodium, 21 grams dietary fiber.
Makes 3 cups, serving 12 to 15 as a dip
1/2 small onion, very finely chopped
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 serranos or 1 jalapeño), stemmed, seeded and very finely chopped
1 ripe, medium-large tomato, cored and very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
10 sprigs fresh cilantro (chopped)
3 ripe, medium avocados
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 lime, juiced
Additional chopped onion and fresh cilantro, radish slices, and a little crumbled Mexican queso fresco for garnish
1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the finely chopped onion and chiles with the tomato, garlic, and cilantro.
2. Close to the time you are going to serve, halve the avocados lengthwise by cutting from the stem to flower ends around the pits. Scoop out the pits, then scrape out the pulp from the skins and add it to the bowl.
3. Using your hand or a spoon, roughly mash the avocado while mixing the other ingredients, making a coarse, thick mass. Flavor with salt, then enough lime juice to add a little zing. Return the pits to the guacamole (to retard darkening) and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the mixture. Set aside for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.
4. Remove the pits and place the guacamole in a pottery bowl or Mexican mortar, sprinkled with chopped onion, cilantro, radish slices and crumbled fresh cheese.
- From Authentic Mexican, 20th Anniversary Edition by Rick Bayless (Morrow, 2007)
Per serving (based on 15): 62 calories, 1 gram protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, trace sugar, 5 grams fat, no cholesterol, 81 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber
Contact food writer Marilynn Marter at 215-854-5743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.