Saturday is a big game day.
Your Atlanta Falcons will host the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC Divisional Playoff game at 4:35 p.m. Saturday to determine which team will play for the conference championship and a spot in the Super Bowl.
It’s time to get serious about game-day eats. Football is often a day centered on the TV — and endless snacking.
But a few simple adjustments — such as swapping out processed foods for raw vegetables and sliced fruit, and getting off the couch (even if it’s just during the commercials) — can help curb unnecessary calorie consumption, according to experts.
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Keith Kantor, a Norcross nutritionist and author of the book “The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice” (Effective Press, $38.95), recommends fighting the temptation to skip meals before the game. Showing up to a party starving is “only asking for trouble,” he said, and will lead to devouring double the amount of dip and chips you’d normally consume.
And for those drinking alcohol, he suggests sipping a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. Drinking water will keep you hydrated and fill you up — ultimately leading to less eating (and less alcohol consumption).
Joy Goetz, a dietitian at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, said a few modifications can make football-watching staples healthier, including baking — instead of frying — chicken wings and using low-fat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise for a ranch-style dip. The key to the baked chicken wings, according to Goetz, is baking the chicken on a cooling rack (or baking rack) fitted on the top of a rimmed baking sheet, which elevates the chicken and allows hot air underneath the pieces, making them crispy on all sides.
Another one of her favorite ways to control calories is by rethinking the drink by offering flavor-infused sparkling drinks. (See her recipe for a low-calorie Georgia Peach Mocktail.)
Jennifer Hill Booker, a personal chef in Atlanta and owner of the catering company Your Resident Gourmet, likes to serve food in courses, which can help keep the menu exciting, and bringing out food little by little also ensures food doesn’t sit too long.
She likes to mix traditional football-watching bites with low-fat options. For example, she often begins with a hummus platter paired with a plate of hot wings, followed by fruit kebabs accompanied by queso and chips, and finishes with a build-your-own salad and side of meatballs.
One of Booker’s favorite low-fat munchies is homemade popcorn dishes. By adding some spices such as cayenne or brown sugar for sweetness, popcorn can be an enticing and high-fiber, vitamin-rich alternative to chips. (One of her stovetop recipes calls for up to 1/4 cup of oil and 1/2 to 2/3 cup of popcorn kernels; once popcorn is popped, add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh, cracked black pepper, 1/3 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and sea salt to taste.)
Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian in Atlanta, said one of the best ways to keep noshing in check is through portion control. She suggests using small and single-size serving dishes, such as mini cups for dips and coffee mugs for chili, along with mini-size cans of soda.
Watching what you eat, she added, does not mean skimping on dessert.
Smith, founder of and contributor to the blog www.360FamilyNutrition.org, said her favorite game-day treats include mini brownies cut in the shape of little footballs, and sliced strawberries with a sweet topping that mixes equal amounts of Greek yogurt and whipped topping.
Another way to balance out excess calories is by getting plenty of exercise. Avoid sitting around before the game, since you will be doing so much of that during the game. Or get up and jump around — or dance — during the commercials and halftime.
FOR THE PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED SHRIMP:
5-7 thin slices prosciutto
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (tail on or off)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt and pepper
FOR THE GARLIC BUTTER DIPPING SAUCE (OPTIONAL):
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Pinch of salt and pepper
TO MAKE THE PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED SHRIMP:
Preheat oven to 425.
On a cutting board, slice the prosciutto into three long strips and then slice each of those strips in half. (You should have six long strips that are approximately 1 inch by 4-5 inches.) Wrap a piece of prosciutto around the body of a piece of shrimp, and lay it seam-side-down on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining shrimp and prosciutto.
Brush the melted butter onto the top of each shrimp. Season with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque and the prosciutto is slightly crispy. Serve warm, with cocktail forks if desired.
TO MAKE THE GARLIC DIPPING SAUCE:
Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Season with extra salt and pepper if desired, and serve warm.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp: serves 8
Per serving: 103 calories (percent of calories from fat, 42), 14 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, no fiber, 5 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 100 milligrams cholesterol, 352 milligrams sodium.
Garlic Butter Dipping Sauce: makes about 1/4 cup
Per 1-tablespoon serving: 106 calories (percent of calories from fat, 95), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 12 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 140 milligrams sodium.
Georgia Peach Mocktail
(Recipe courtesy of Joy Goetz)
Several fresh peaches or several cups of frozen peach slices
Flavored sparkling water of your choice
Lemon wedges (optional)
Thaw peaches if frozen. Cut peaches into bite-size pieces. Muddle several tablespoons of peaches and 1 tablespoon of simple syrup in a highball glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with lemon wedge.
Georgia Peach Mocktail: serves 1
Per serving: 65 calories (percent of calories from fat, 1), trace protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 10 milligrams sodium.