Ever wonder why big sports games and other large gatherings are known for having bad-for-you food? Often, food brings people together and connects them with friends and fun. Sometimes people are more interested in the food (healthy or not) than the game itself.
Some of the most popular foods people bring to parties are:
- Loaded with nachos
- fried chicken wings
- Takeaway pizza
These foods are also often high in fat. Each of these options contains 600 to 1,000 calories in a typical party serving size. For example, two slices of all-meat pizza contain 720-940 calories and 34-56 grams of fat. Add in some tortilla chips and you’re probably adding another 600 calories before reaching dessert.
Negative effects of unhealthy food
On average, partygoers burn a full day’s worth of calories at these events. High fat and high salt loads can temporarily increase blood pressure and blood lipids. Generally speaking, you should be able to recover from these spikes easily. However, the situation may be more serious if you have heart disease or diabetes.
Overeating can also lead to weight gain, especially around the midsection, which increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Thankfully, there are now healthier party food alternatives that are both nutritious and delicious.
Healthier food options for your next party
You don’t have to sacrifice nutrition for delicious taste. Some alternative options include:
- Fruit skewers or fruit plate
- Infused water or sparkling water
- Homemade trail mix made with whole grain cereals and low sodium nuts and seeds
- low fat yogurt sauce
- roasted chickpeas
- Vegetable tray with hummus
Try a healthy twist on your favorite games:
- Bake or air fry chicken wings instead of frying them in oil.
- Instead of an all-meat pizza, add veggies to a homemade whole-wheat or cauliflower crust.
- Instead of cheese nachos, use salsa, pico de gallo, or black bean nachos instead of whole wheat chips.
Find balance in food choices
You can still have fun and enjoy what you’re eating while you’re cheering for your favorite team. However, food withdrawal often leads to overindulgence later on. Balance is key.
Try these other tips at your next party:
- Evaluate your options.
Decide what you want to eat, and then be careful to stick to your choices.
- Eat vegetables first to fill up your stomach.
This can help you feel full and limit the high-calorie foods you eat.
- Find the best seat in the house.
Find a place to sit away from the table so you won’t be tempted to go back for more.
- Reaching for the pitcher.
Drinking water can help you feel more satisfied while consuming less food. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making you more likely to overeat.
- Take it easy.
The slower you eat, the fuller you will feel and the more you will be able to enjoy your food.
- Watch your portion sizes.
Choosing smaller plates can help with portion control. This can have a big impact on the number of calories you consume.
Watch this video for healthy eating tips for your next party:
If chicken wings are your favorite party food, try this recipe at your next gathering. Substituting skinless, boneless chicken breasts for wings cuts the fat and saturated fat in half and saves more than 100 calories.
Boneless Chicken Tenders
4 4-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 4 strips each
1 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup buffalo sauce or favorite chicken wing sauce
Preheat oven to 450 F. Grease a baking sheet with spray oil. Trim any visible fat from the chicken and cut each chicken breast into 4 strips. In a bowl, whisk eggs. In another bowl, combine bread flour and dry seasonings. Coat chicken in egg and then in seasoned panko mixture. Shake off excess breadcrumbs and place chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Lightly coat chicken with spray oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until chicken reaches 165 degrees F and is firm to the touch.
In a sauté pan, heat the buffalo sauce and add the chicken tenders to the sauce. Serve as a dip with low-calorie dressing.
Nutrition per serving (3 chicken strips): 362 calories, 10 g total fat, 254 mg sodium, 41 g total carbohydrates, 27 g protein.
Christy Wimpen Is a registered dietitian nutritionist Nutrition in Mankato, MN.