It’s football season! So naturally we’ve gotten asked, What are healthy foods for football season?
Answer: There are none. What I mean is that there’s nothing that actually tastes like “football food” that isn’t packed with calories, saturated fat, and that doesn’t make you want to overeat.
American football is centered around 17+ mini Thanksgivings. Tailgating, get-togethers, parties, etc, are fun times, and are loaded with lots of (usually delicious) high calorie food. When your friends and family are expecting you to partake in a weekly feast it’s difficult to even maintain your weight, which has an enormous bearing on your health in every single way. With my party pooping out of the way here are 9 strategies.
A Bit More Pooping
Well, I did have a high fiber breakfast, so, maybe a bit more party pooping… for modern humans “healthy” mostly means “appropriate number of calories.” We don’t move much, we can get drive through food that is so yummy that Louis XIV would’ve killed even more people to get his hands on it. If you’re a woman you have a smaller body, so you don’t burn many calories at rest. It may sound like I am saying “this is impossible,” but I am not. What I am saying is this is difficult, but also well worth it as your health is the most valuable possession that you and your family have.
No matter how small your family is, we all have people who count on us to be able to show up for them. I will not give you a list of bullshit things to do, and I will be up front with and say that anything you do to reduce the number of calories in a dish makes it less enjoyable.
1. Fat-free Greek yogurt: Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram as carbs and protein. Fat is also not satiating – meaning we can eat a virtually unlimited quantity of fat, whereas food can be too salty or too sweet; and plain potatoes and chicken breasts get really old fast. In practical terms I am suggesting a substitution for your “salads” (tater salad, and whatnot), and dips. Replace as much of the sour cream, full fat cheese, etc with lower fat or fat-free alternatives. Will it be as good? No. Can you still make it pretty good? Yes, and the reduced yumminess (reduced hyperpalatability) also means you won’t eat quite as much. There are no solutions, there are only tradeoffs.
2. Gizzards: I used to think that battering and deep frying made everything delicious. Then I had a chicken gizzard. Gross! However, the tailgate I was at had only gizzards and no fried chicken, so I probably saved 1,000 calories right there. The point is to try and offer and/or bring some things that you dislike, but that other people do like. It’s polite, and it saves you some calories and willpower.
3. Don’t screen your food: don’t eat in front of the TV. This seems like the most tone deaf advice of all because here I am saying to not eat in front of the TV for an event that is centered around watching TV. When you have a variety of crunchy, creamy, sweet, savory, etc. foods within arms reach while you’re watching TV you have the ingredients for hours of mindless eating. Despite what you see on social media, there is no way to offset hours of mindless eating. Having to get up to get food and eat it means you will do a lot less. It is a pain in the ass, and making it less convenient to overeat is the point.
4. Halfsie: Making less food is something I struggle with because I always assume that I am feeding an NFL team when I cook. When I do a better job here I run out of food, and I don’t dispose of it in my tummy today or tomorrow. The practical application is: try making (or buying) half what you normally make/buy, and be OK with running out of food. Again, not a solution, a tradeoff. Solutions are figments of our imagination.
5. Layaway: if we’re feasting each weekend of the season this will come with extra calories, which means some weight gain over the weekend. One way to deal with this is to lose this weight in advance (put it on layaway). For example, let’s say you finish the weekend up 3 pounds, then you’ll want to have lost those 3 pounds before the weekend festivities starts. Easier said than done, but it is also easier to manage this on a week by week basis vs having 15 pounds to lose at the end of football season.
6. The most basic: common sense, and things that have worked for generations are so passé. The advice to be honest and save for a rainy are cliché, old and boring, but their oldness and boringness have nothing to do with their soundness. Here’s old, non-clickbait advice: use small plates, have a limit on your number of plates, serve calorie-free beverages, have raw veggies to use in place of chips, and have plain old fruit.
7. Single ladies: buy chips and crunchy things in single serve bags. And make most of them baked. Does baked eliminate 100% of the calories? No, but if you need a strategy to be 100% effective, then you will not find any strategies that meet your standards. Baked will cut 1/3 of the calories. Single serve bags will increase the cost (you buy less), increase the friction of eating more (you have to open another bag), and reduce variety (not as many things are available in single serve bags)… again, this is a tradeoff.
8. Invest in yourself: wearing a vest equal to 10-20% of your bodyweight for 4,000+ steps per day does a lot to reduce your appetite, and increases the number of calories you burn per day. It is tiring – especially in the beginning, and it can definitely mean you need to change your shirt a few times a day in the summer (‘cuz sweatiness), however this can buy you some more margin.
9. Shake it: it is hard (if not impossible) to get a reasonable amount of protein with tailgate food. Tasty beef is mostly fat, pimento cheese and turkey sandwiches are mostly fat, and everything else that we might wish to call “protein” at a tailgate is mostly fat, often with a bunch of carbs. Instead of trying to get your protein from high-fat and high calorie tailgate foods, just have a protein shake beforehand instead. A plain (just water and powder) protein shake will be the lowest calorie way to get your protein, and will free up your calories for the things you really enjoy.