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Game On: Tips and Recipes for Healthier, Football-Friendly Fare

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February 1, 2012

There’s a bit of irony in the fact that the New Year, with all its itinerant resolutions around diet, strikes at exactly the same time as the peak of football season.

Somehow junk food has become part and parcel to watching sports, with the Super Bowl being ultimate in overindulgence. Trying to stick to a weight loss plan while staring down a platter of nachos isn’t exactly ideal.  The truth is, though, you can have your game day celebrations while staying true to the best of your resolutions.  Here are some tips and recipes for throwing football-friendly parties so tasty your guests won’t even miss the Doritos.

  • Create a gorgeous vegetable tray relying on a variety of crunchy vegetables and pair it with your favorite reduced fat dips or dressings (recipe below).
  • Rely on pita chips or other baked chips for snacking along with wholesome spreads such as hummus.
  • If game day just isn’t the same without a little junk food, you don’t have to buy the jumbo bag.  Buy a more moderate size, choosing just one favorite snack food.  People tend to eat more when there are more foods to try.
  • If kids are involved, watch the sugary drinks.  Keep it to juice-sweetened options with enough for each child to enjoy a single serving.  Set out a pitcher of ice water for when they get thirsty once the juice runs out.
  • Put out snack size plates so kids (and adults) can serve themselves reasonable portions and then walk away from the buffet rather than grazing endlessly.
  • Rely on healthier versions of your favorite game day mains.  The Walking Tacos recipe below is classic football fare, just a whole lot lighter than the standard.  Plus, it has built in portion control.
  • For sweets, set out big bowls of tangerines or other fresh, seasonal fruit.  If you want something more decadent, keep the portions small:  mini cupcakes, two-bite brownies, or miniature ice cream sandwiches.

Healthier Homemade Ranch

This dip is perfect with crunchy vegetables, pita chips, or even whole grain crackers.  If using it to dress a salad, whisk in a little milk or olive oil until it thins to your desired consistency.  You can play around with the amount of garlic, cutting it to half of a clove to start, particularly if your kids are sensitive to the taste.


  • ½ cup non-fat, plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (regular or light, whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste


  1. Put the yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, chives, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Add a few grinds of black pepper.  Whirl until smooth.  If you don’t have a food processor, finely mince the garlic and whisk all of the ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.
  2. Store in the fridge.
  3. Makes about ¾ cup.

Walking Tacos

Using Sun Chips instead of standard nacho cheese chips cuts down on the amount of fat and eliminates artificial colors and flavors.  If you can’t find single serving bags of chips, you can make these using ordinary salted tortilla chips in wax paper bags.  Figure an adult-size handful of chips per bag.


  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning mix*
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 6 one-ounce bags Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce (crunchiest leaves)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Salsa and light sour cream for garnish


  1. In a medium saute pan, brown the turkey meat over medium heat until cooked through.  Add the pinto beans to the pan and sprinkle the 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix over the top.  Add the water and stir.  Turn heat to low and simmer until the liquid absorbs into the mix and the flavors develop, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  2. While the meat is cooking, crush the bags of Sun Chips to break them into bite size pieces.  Use scissors to open the bags along one side (as opposed to opening at the top).  .
  3. To assemble, put a few generous spoonfuls of the turkey mixture on top of the chips in each bag.  Divide the cheese between the 6 bags, followed by the lettuce and tomatoes.  To eat, add salsa and/or sour cream, and use a dinner fork to give the contents of the bag a good stir.  Eat right from the bag.
  4. Makes 6 servings.

* Read the ingredients on the label or buy at a natural foods market since some brands are made with MSG and other additives you and your five your old can’t pronounce and probably don’t want to eat.

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