Recipes for a touchdown-worthy Super Bowl party have been circulating for weeks.
And beer? Of course. But not everyone likes beer, so why not a bloody Mary rimmed with salt, a margarita sunrise, shoo-fly punch (bourbon and ginger beer), or spiked lemonade sweet tea?
This food-centric Super Bowl planning makes one wonder if America’s favorite Sunday bash is more of an excuse to overeat than it is to cheer on a favorite team. Ironically, this eating frenzy is right on the heels of New Year’s resolutions pledging better eating habits.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Super Bowl Sunday runs neck and neck with Thanksgiving as America’s top “pig out” day.
When you consider the caloric load of half a dozen hot wings (570 calories), three cans of beer (458), and a moderate serving of beef nachos (430), it’s not hard to imagine consuming hundreds of calories in a few hours.
Whether your team wins or loses, you feel like a beached whale after the clock runs out.
How does it happen?
Brian Wansink, author of “Slim by Design” and professor and director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, threw a Super Bowl party and used his unsuspecting guests as subjects.
In one experiment, guests were served chicken wings. One group sat at a table that was bussed frequently and the second group of guests sat at a table that was not bussed.
Those sitting at the bussed table ate an average of seven wings — two more than those at the messy table.
Wansink speculated that cleaning up the food detritus created a caloric blindness.
“All the evidence of what they’d eaten was removed,” Wansink explained. “There was nothing left to remind them of how many calories they’d consumed.”
Wansink also found that having a bigger snack bowl can contribute to game watchers consuming 53 percent more party snack mix.
“The larger bowl,” he says, “tricks the brain into thinking serving sizes are smaller.”
Obviously, a handful is a handful, but with a bigger bowl, it takes longer to reach the bottom. And if you’re cheering for (or groaning at) your team, you’re not thinking about how much you’re eating.
What’s happening to your body?
“One day of pigging out does not have long-term effects on metabolism or general fitness,” said Michelle Weinbender, a registered dietician nutritionist.
“It may cause physical discomfort, lethargy and stomach upset, but our bodies are designed to tolerate occasional and even drastic changes in food intake, both over- and under-eating,” she added.
Weinbender explains that salty food can cause water retention and a bloated feeling.
In addition, the sheer volume of food in your gut can trigger heartburn and indigestion.
Blood flow can also be diverted to your digestive track and make you feel sleepy and lethargic.
“Things should return to normal by Monday,” Weinbender told Healthline.
Make a game plan
Think before you fill your plate for a second or third time or grab another beer.
Give your body 20 or 30 minutes to register the fact that it’s full before you go for more food.
Eat your veggies.
If that sounds too sissified for a Super Bowl extravaganza, just remember that those athletes on the field eat balanced, nutritious meals every single day. That’s what gives them the edge and the ability to go the distance.
Eat salsa instead of creamy dips.
You notice we aren’t suggesting you forego the chips. That would take all the fun out of game day. Just scoop healthy, low-calorie tomato-based salsa instead of gooey onion dip.
And drink in moderation. The Super Bowl doesn’t give you a pass to get sloshed.
Next day strategies
The best thing you can do the day after the Super Bowl is to return to normal.
“Returning to balanced eating and moderate exercise the next day is the best course of action,” Weinbender said. “Restricting intake, fasting or dieting, which is often our tendency after overeating, is not recommended and usually leads to another episode of overeating. Instead, focus on including more fruits and vegetables for their high fiber content, and drink plenty of water to improve digestion and elimination.”
Follow these suggestions and you won’t have to Monday morning quarterback your Super Bowl eating and drinking choices.