Can you be a football fan, or a fanático del fútbol, without getting fat?

Oct 16, 2015 | 4 comments

By Susan Burke March, MSEd, RDN, LDN, CDE

A recent article caught my eye—researchers found that after the defeat of their favorite football team, people eat more, and what they choose to eat makes a major impact on their waistline.chl susan logo2 But, after their favorite team wins, they choose more healthfully—and eat less!

They also found that after football and soccer losses, fans suffer an increase in fatal car accidents, alcohol-related crime, cardiac illness and domestic violence.  Hmmm, I’m thinking, could it have anything to do with what they’re drinking?

But, who knew that being a fan can be so dangerous? Well, no doubt, emotions run high for those fanatical fans—I’m not surprised that it carries over into consuming more comfort foods to assuage the misery of defeat.

So, if you’re an armchair quarterback, sitting around drinking brews and sodas and chowing down on fatty wings, chips and dips won’t help you make the cut. Score a nutritional touchdown and serve and eat some healthy snacks while rooting your team on to victory!

It's game time for heavy weights.

It’s game time for heavy weights.

These Snacks are Winners!

Chips: Ditch the fried and get baked—chips, that is—instead. Any fried chip, including potato, tortilla, or pita, has about 30% more calories compared to baked. But even fat-free chips aren’t calorie-free. Portion size counts, so read the “Nutrition Facts” label, and learn the serving size first. If you’re helping yourself from the jumbo economy-size bag, it’s too easy to lose track of what you’re eating. Just “one serving” of potato chips means only 15 chips—and typically contains at least 160 calories and 10 grams of fat. And of course, you can’t eat just one serving; chips are merely fat and salt-carriers, and the excess calories total up really fast.

Here’s a shocker. Log on to this calorie burn calculator —check out how long it takes to burn off those calories. For me, to burn off a couple of handfuls of regular potato chips, about 300 calories (just 30 chips) would require an hour of aerobics. I’m ahead of the pack when I don’t have to play catch-up—I like to dodge the calories instead—by making smarter choices.

Dips: Serve bean dip instead of regular sour cream or mayo dip—you’ll enjoy 50% fewer calories. Supply lots of crudité: everyone like crunchy veggies, especially with a tasty dip. Hummus with crudité—that is unbeatable! Another medalist in the dips department is a fresh tomato salsa—cooked or raw, go for it. I love the Inca Lounges’ roasted tomato salsa—see my previous column for the recipe. Hi Mike!

Bean dip

Bean dip

Nuts & Popcorn: No doubt, all nuts, even the peanut (actually in the legume family) are winners in the nutrition department. Calorie-wise, they are positioned to be a liability, since they’re pretty rich in fat—so, the portion size counts. Serve them roasted or raw, instead of salted or candied.

Another winner is a giant bowl of popcorn—air-popped or homemade in a little oil. I use made-in-Ecuador canola oil for my popcorn—see my previous column on best oils for cooking—for those who are worried about GMO oils, Ecuador doesn’t grow GMO canola. Unadorned popcorn has only 60 calories for three full cups, and packs a punch in the fiber department. Take a penalty on any kind of microwave popcorn—it’s the junkiest of junk food—and contains an absurd amount of artificial ingredients, flavors and preservatives. You’ll also evade 280 calories, 28 grams of fat and 330 milligrams of sodium when you make your own popcorn, instead of microwave popcorn.

Stick Snacks: Everyone loves skewers—they’re the ultimate finger-food.  I love roasted vegetables, or try skewered chicken or turkey with vegetables. This recipe from Natasha is a winner—Grilled Moroccan Vegetable Skewers.  Assemble these in advance and when the fans arrive hungry, just pop them on the grill. Serve with Tzatziki sauce (Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, cucumber).

Marinated Vegetable kabobs

Marinated Vegetable kabobs

Super Sandwiches: Whole-wheat hero rolls (pan integral available at just about any bakery or Supermaxi) scores in the extra-added fiber and nutrition department—not to mention taste! There’s no comparison to white bread. Layer on your choice of chicken, turkey breast, or ham—drained canned tuna or sardines gain points here too. Don’t forget shredded lettuce, tomato slices, sliced onions and pickles too.

Keep the calories low by using less mayonnaise—or make your own yogurt-based spread—I like this website for interesting spread recipes. Ketchup and mustard adds just a few calories—some sugar (in commercial ketchup) and some salt (in mustard).

Beverages: You’ve earned an advantage by serving some first-place food choices, but you’ll strike out by drinking too much. Alcohol puts weight on fast—in a previous column I covered why—read more here. One thing for sure, if you plan on drinking, it’s best to eat something too.healthy beverages

A single 12-oz. regular beer packs between 150 and 200 calories, a light beer about 100 calories. One 5-ounce glass of dry red wine has about 127 calories but, depending on the pour, most people drink more. Research shows that people tend to over-pour white wine more often than red—the color contrast of wine and clear glass isn’t readily apparent. Any ounce of alcoholic spirits such as vodka, gin or scotch has 100 calories, but you double-up those calories when you add regular soda, tonic, or juice.

So, coach your guests toward better health and fewer calories by serving a variety of no-cal beverages and lower-cal alternatives. In addition to your regular, serve agua con gas, cut-up lemons, limes and naranjas; light beer and diet sodas, and of course, fresh Cuenca water—some of the best in Latin America.

I like to emphasize that substituting juice—even fresh-squeezed juice—for regular soda is like substituting regular sour cream for mayonnaise. An 8-ounce glass of juice, unsweetened, has about 120 calories; all of it from fructose (naturally-occurring fruit sugar) and it’s akin to calories in regular sugar-sweetened soda, sports or energy drinks…or to the calories in beer. A sparkling water with a splash of 100% juice and a piece of fresh lemon or lime is always a no-calorie winner.

Time-Out! Get off the couch and into the game! Make commercials active—instead of being a couch potato, try this great workout.  Do it during commercial breaks—it’s fun and it’s sure to keep you in shape for the season


Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Do you have a food, nutrition or health question? Write to me at


Susan Burke March

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