For most Americans, this time of year means it’s time for overindulgent caffeinated beverages or it’s football season. Both can spell trouble for anyone trying to lose weight, but hours spent on the couch watching the game week after week is a bigger waistline threat than the occasional coffee-treat while out shopping. (Don’t knock that treat, though. It contains about 510 calories and more sugar than two handfuls of candy corn—a true fact you can look up with MyFitnessPal!)
The problem with football season from a nutritional standpoint is that watching a game is the perfect set-up for mindless overeating. For one, games are long. The average football game lasts around 174 minutes. And though they may be long, not much really happens—some research shows the average NFL game only has about 11 minutes of actual game play. Which means you can reach for the chips, or head to the kitchen for another snack, without missing a thing for 163 minutes.
And, since your team only plays 16 games in the regular season — to say nothing of the playoffs or the Big Game — every weekend becomes “special,” and we tend to eat “special” foods on “special” occasions, which are almost always higher in calories than our normal everyday fare. (I’ve never heard anyone brag about an awesome tailgate salad.) On top of that, game watching usually turns into a social event where we catch up with friends over drinks and over-serve ourselves food and alcohol for 3.5 hours.
The good news: you can use a lot of tried-and-true tips for slowing down that heroic intake of nachos and beer without sacrificing your enjoyment of the game or the people you’re watching it with. Here are 6 ways to do just that.
1. PRIORITIZE PROTEIN
Protein is really filling, and at the end of the day feeling full might be the best strategy to keep you from eating more. Have a hamburger with two patties at kick-off and you’ll be less likely to reach for those high-calorie nachos and wings later.
2. SLAM WATER
Don’t be bashful with the H2O! Drinking it like it’s going out of style will not only prevent a hangover, it will also slash the number of beers you drink and help you feel full—further preventing your hands from hitting the chip bowl again.
3. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
If you’re heading to a viewing party at a friend’s place, bring a bunch of healthy snacks to share. You’ll look like a nice guest and there will be something better for you to stuff in your face. Worried about getting slack for showing up with carrots? No one will care, really. If someone does comment, just tell them their team sucks and see where the conversation goes.
4. SIT FAR AWAY FROM THE SNACKS
Most of the grazing that takes place during a game is mindless eating—you’re doing it because it’s convenient. Make it less convenient by sitting on the other side of the room, or with your back to the snack table so you can’t see the food. If it’s harder for the chips harder to get into your hand, they’re less likely to end up in your mouth.
5. DRINK LIGHT (OR DARK!) BEER
Light beer has fewer calories than regular varieties, and most people tend to drink the same number of light beers as they do regular ones during a game. Net result? Fewer calories. Another option is to go for a full-bodied brew, like Guinness. The stout stuff weights in at 174 calories, which is the same as most regular beers, but because it’s so dark it seems more filling and most drinkers take more time to finish one. Net result? Fewer beers.
6. EAT A MEAL INSTEAD OF GRAZING
Having a dedicated meal before or during the game means you’ll be far less likely to graze and mindlessly eat more food than you need. Fill up with a turkey sandwich on whole wheat and a side salad and you’ll surely make it through halftime without snacking.
Got any tips for tackling the munchies in a healthy way on game day? Share them in the comments below!