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JoAnne Green, Founder/Editor,/Publisher
JoAnne Green

Game Day Nutrition Tips

Perhaps in the new year you have resolved to eat healthier to manage your diabetes, blood pressure, or cholesterol. Parties present a challenge to that resolution, so it’s important to have a game plan before tackling the Super Bowl spread.

veggies and bbq rib

"Remember healthy food choices and controlling portions are key to good health,” said Dr. Jo Ann Carson, registered dietitian nutritionist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. If you’re hosting a party, include healthy options such as salad, fruits, and vegetables. Low-calorie and sugar-free options can help diabetic friends and family control calories and carbohydrates and make sound choices without much fuss.

“For people with diabetes the goal is to keep the carbohydrates down – and encourage more of the protein-rich foods – to enhance satiety,” Dr. Carson advises. She also coaches her patients to eat slowly, so that they eat a limited amount per quarter, and to get up and walk around during each commercial to encourage activity as well as better eating habits. For those with diabetes, it is also important to monitor blood sugars on a regular basis throughout the game.

If you’re trying to keep control of your diabetes, find out what’s on tap for the Super Bowl party you’re attending. If it’s shaping up to be a high-carb feast, bring some of your own favorite dishes, or coordinate with other family and friends with diabetes to ensure the table includes healthier options. If blood pressure is more a concern for you, load up on fruits and veggies that provide potassium and limit your sodium by avoiding salty snacks, dips and sauces.

Dr. Carson offers these hosting guidelines:

Zero penalties for eating these foods:

  • Broad array of salad options, including sugar-free and low-calorie dressings, including salad greens, sprouts, mushrooms, onions, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes;

  • Crunchy low calorie vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, jicama, asparagus, and cucumbers;

  • Unlimited beverages options such as water, unsweetened tea, coffee, and calorie-free diet sodas;

  • Grilled fish, skinless chicken or turkey, and/or soy-based “veggie” burgers;

  • Low/non-fat dairy options including non-fat cheeses, yogurts and skim milk.

5-yard penalties (meaning go sparingly and watch portion sizes):

  • Fruits such as apples, peaches, and most berries;

  • Whole grain options for rice, pasta, breads, and crackers in small portions;

  • Beans/legumes such as kidney, pinto, or black beans, chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans), and lentils;

  • Unsalted nuts (1 oz., or about 20 nuts is a serving);

  • Fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible skin (apples, corn, and beans) and those with edible seeds (berries).

15-yard penalty for consumption of these items:

  • Cookies, pies, candies, desserts;

  • Potato chips, high-fat dips, and high-fat crackers;

  • Regular sodas, alcohol, and sweetened beverages.

Nutritional trade-offs for the Super Bowl

Making a healthier meal doesn’t always mean sacrifice. There are plenty of options for cutting calories as well as substitutes for some of the more high-calorie options.

“Not everyone is going to be satisfied with the salad bowl. If you’re not ready to replace your entire plate with healthy alternatives, you can still significantly cut down on calories and fats by blending your favorites with some lower-calorie options and alternatives,” says Lona Sandon, a clinical nutritionist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Be realistic, she added. Fat free does not necessarily equate to lower calorie intake and the lack of flavor of some substitutes might actually lead people to want to eat more.

Offer taco salad bowls instead of burgers, substitute lean ground turkey and beans for beef or cold cuts, offer subs with lots salad-style fixings and use less cold cuts, or grill some vegetables to help fill the plate. In addition, pay attention to how much and how many portions you’re taking.

Below are some nutritional alternatives for Super Bowl parties:

Chips: Try baked versions, lightly salted pretzels, unbuttered popcorn sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese, trail mix, unsalted nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds. (These options are not really calorie savers over chips, just alternatives with better nutritional value.)

Dip: Try salsas, low-fat sour cream dips or yogurt instead of traditional chip and vegetable dips, or low- fat versions of dressing instead of traditional ranch dressing. Substitute fat-free or lower-calorie ingredients such as vegetarian-style refried beans or whole beans, sour creams, low-fat cheeses and ground turkey to reduce calories for 7-layer dip.

Pizza: If selecting more than one slice, substitute a slice of thin crust, veggie pizza for a slice of three-meat pizza. Or make homemade pizzas substituting lean ground turkey instead of hamburger or sausage and use low-fat cheese and wheat pizza dough.

Wings: For chicken wings, take the skin off, bake or grill instead of deep frying. Consider grilling chicken pieces instead of traditional wings. Make your own hot sauce without the butter and use low-fat versions of cream cheese, sour cream, and blue cheese or substitute plain Greek yogurt.

Chili: Try meatless chili with different types of beans. Substitute or mix with ground turkey or ground soy. Include rice in the bowl to help fill you up faster.

Beer/Soda: Try light wines and light beers. Drink a glass of water before grabbing the next beer or soda. Substitute flavored water for soda.

Nachos: Cut calories with baked tortilla chips, vegetarian refried beans or mashed black beans, low-fat cheese, peppers and tomatoes, fat-free sour cream, and lean ground turkey or ground soy.

BBQ: Try vinegar-based sauces instead of those with high brown-sugar content. Mix chicken and beef on your plate to help lower overall calories. Offer kabobs mixed with vegetables instead of traditional steak.

Ribs: Try leaner beef ribs instead of pork ribs, which are usually fatter. Try baby back instead of normal ribs. Consider brisket instead because you’re likely to eat less.

Burgers: Try using your favorite spices and rubs on veggie, turkey, or soy burgers to give similar flavor with fewer calories, or blend hamburger with ground turkey or ground soy. Try beef jerky to get the beef flavor.

French fries: Try baked sweet potato fries.

Macaroni and cheese: Try low-sugar baked beans or rice dishes.

Bratwurst/hot dogs: Bratwurst usually has more calories than lean hotdogs. Look for 100 percent beef franks. Also try turkey or soy franks. Use wheat buns or tortillas.

Desserts: Cut up fresh fruit, serve over low-fat vanilla yogurt in parfait cups or topped with light whip cream and a sprinkle of granola.

Option plays for Super Bowl binging

You’ve made the pledge to lose weight, but the fast-food, calorie-laden Super Bowl party is approaching. UT Southwestern Medical Center nutritionists have some tips on how to stay on track in the face of party temptations.

“There are plenty of tricks and tips for both partygoers and party hosts to help provide alternatives to full-throttle calorie binging,” says Lona Sandon, a clinical nutritionist at UT Southwestern.

Among the best tips for controlling the calorie count:

  • Eat a lower-calorie meal just before going or a salad prior to higher-calorie selections so you already feel full.

  • Drink water instead of other drinks to help you feel full during the party. Add a little flavor with a squeeze of lime, lemon, or orange.

  • Drink water instead of beer when eating salty foods. Remember moderation when it comes to alcohol: one drink for women, two drinks for men. One 12-ounce beer equals one drink.

  • Instead of depriving yourself of favorite foods, eat smaller portions. You’re less likely to binge eat if you don’t feel deprived. Wait 15 to 20 minutes before going back for seconds or dessert.

Ask yourself if you are still hungry.

  • Think Tapas. Take a small sampling of the items you would like to taste.

  • Make your selections, then move away from the serving table rather than standing nearby and eating continuously without thinking.

  • Ask for a smaller plate, allow yourself one serving. Don’t pile on more food than fits on the smaller plate. If going back for seconds, pick the veggies: grape tomatoes, celery sticks, red pepper sticks, baby carrots.

Take a preventive game strategy on heartburn relief

Spicy, fatty, greasy food and excess alcohol may sound like a typical Super Bowl spread, but it’s also the recipe for heartburn. For decades, taking antacids after people already were experiencing heartburn was the only therapy available. Prevention is now emphasized, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center digestive experts.

“If you know you’re going to eat something that ordinarily gives you heartburn, there are medications you can take before eating that food that might help,” says Dr. Deepak Agrawal, a digestive specialist at UT Southwestern.

You can try to avoid foods that cause heartburn – cheese-, grease-, and fat-laden foods such as pizza, chili, wings, burgers, and cheese-laden nachos. “Fats promote heartburn. For example, they relax the sphincter in the lower esophagus and make it easier for acid to reflux into the esophagus,” Dr. Agrawal says.

If you know you’ll be indulging, try a histamine receptor blocker (H2 blocker), which slows the production of stomach acid. They are generally available over the counter.

“Most people suffering from heartburn get it every now and then,” says Dr. Agrawal, who specializes in gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). “Those are the people who really benefit from this medication. You can take one of those pills a half hour before a meal, and you may be able to prevent the heartburn.”

That approach won’t necessarily work for proton-pump inhibitors, which are really aimed at stopping daily heartburn and take at least several hours or even days to reach their full effect.

“So if you want to eat a pizza in the next half hour, it’s not going to stop the acid that you’re going to make in that time,” Dr. Agrawal says. Antacids still can help for heartburn.

“So if you want to eat a pizza in the next half hour, it’s not going to stop the acid that you’re going to make in that time,” Dr. Agrawal says. Antacids still can help for heartburn.

Antacids act like a sponge to soak up the excess stomach acid, but they don’t prevent the stomach from creating more acid, like H2 blockers. It may help to take some antacid tablets to soak up acid currently being produced and take an H2 receptor blocker to slow the stomach from producing further acid. Eating certain types of foods or drinking milk in an attempt to reduce stomach acid generally doesn’t work, he says.

“Most of the foods that we eat buffer acid, but they also stimulate the stomach to produce acid later. That’s why we don’t recommend them as treatment,” Dr. Agrawal says. If you are experiencing heartburn every day, have difficulty swallowing, or notice that stools are becoming black, you should see a gastroenterologist, he says.

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