In the United States, Super Bowl Sunday takes on the feeling of a national holiday. If you’re lucky, you can catch the gridiron plays and million dollar commercials on your neighbor’s big-screen television. If you’re hosting a party, you’re probably thinking chili dogs, hamburgers, chips and dips, buffalo wings, and a host of other calorie-loaded munchies. Throw in some adult beverages, and you’re talking about a possible belly ache that night or lethargy the next day.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning, you can host a Super Bowl party with plenty of heart-friendly, lower-calorie offerings. This is great news if you are doing well on your new diet or if you are hosting friends who are also trying to drop pounds. With just a few days before the big game, Dr. Margaret Lewin, Medical Director of Cinergy Health, has some great party tips that will take away a lot of the guilt associated with overindulging on the big day.

“Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing” talked with Dr. Lewin, who has written many articles in top medical journals and lay magazines. She has performed decades of volunteer work and has been on medical missions to the Third World.  Lewin suggests some low-cal alternatives to traditional Super Bowl treats: 

  • Provide crisp crackers, preferably whole grain, for small do-it-yourself finger food. You can bake your own home-made crackers by brushing a bit of olive oil and adding seasoning on pita bread.
  • Raw vegetables are good for dips. Consider salsa, guacamole, hummus, bean or other low-fat dips.
  • For a main dish, try oven-fried chicken fingers. Season some skinless chicken breasts, dip them in buttermilk, roll them in seasoned-ground corn flakes and bake them at about 350, until they’re done.
  • Buy your own bottle of popcorn. Pop it yourself and go easy on the salt.
  • Provide pistachio nuts, in shells. That way it takes a little effort to get to the nut.
  • Serve cut fruit, with toothpicks.
  • Baked fries: Take small, unpeeled white (baby) potatoes, lightly oil the outside, cut them in half, place on rack on cookie sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt, let them sit for five or ten minutes, pop in oven at 450 till they’re puffed and crisp.
  • Make a big bowl of chili, using turkey instead of beef. Serve with fat-free sour cream or fat-free cheese.
  • Make-it-yourself Sub sandwiches. Include trays with healthy breads, wraps and large lettuce leaves you can use as wraps. Include low-salt, low-fat meats and cheese. As an added touch: roasted red peppers, pickles, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and mustard.

Before your guests arrive, Lewin has a few more party prep tips. She says, “Set up a table off to the side of the room so your friends have to get up to refresh their plates. Don’t put the nachos right in front of the television. Have small plates and lots of choices.”

These Super Bowl habits can serve you well throughout the year. Lewin says you should adopt healthy habits that don’t make you feel deprived and frustrated. “Eat healthy choices first, and leave the cookie for dessert, because by then you’re not going to have as much of an appetite.”