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National Restaurant Association - Ask the Nutritionist: Make a nutrition game plan for Sunday's big game

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Ask the Nutritionist: Make a nutrition game plan for Sunday's big game

In her latest blog post, the National Restaurant Association’s Director of Nutrition & Healthy Living Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., helps you come up with a nutrition game plan for watching the professional football championship game this Sunday.

Whether cheering for New England or New York this Sunday, the nutrition game-plan is the same - to balance the enjoyment of the food with a healthier approach while watching the two teams battle it out on the field. Many of us plan to watch the event at home, at a friend or family member's house, or at a restaurant or bar. No matter where we are, food and beverages are likely to be part of the event and it's a good idea to plan ahead so you can better manage your choices.

Recent research by the National Restaurant Association shows that salsa, dips and spreads top the list of must-have food items on game day, followed by chicken wings, and pizza. Somewhat surprisingly, healthful options and salads were also cited as must-haves by more than 4 out of 10 people who plan to watch the big game. This is very encouraging to me as a dietitian, and reminds us that food can and should be both delicious and nutritious even at special occasions.

Whether cooking at home, ordering takeout or delivery, or dining out, consider incorporating these tips into your dietary game plan on Sunday:

• Choose tomato- or fruit-based salsa to pair with your chips. Not only do they taste great and are typically low in calories, but the tomatoes and fruit provide vitamin C and a boost of antioxidants. Or, try other vegetable- or legume-based dips, such as hummus or baba ganoush, to boost your intake of protein and fiber.

•  Pair your salsa and dips with whole grain chips or whole grain pita bread to add essential nutrients like B-vitamins and fiber. Or, why not dip fresh vegetables instead?

• If available, try boneless buffalo wings as an alternative to traditional fried wings. You can also mimic wing flavors by baking skinless chicken breast tenders marinated with BBQ or hot-wing sauce, which will save on calories and fat.

• Just like USDA’s MyPlate recommendation to make half your plate fruits and vegetables, make at least half your pizza toppings fruits and vegetables. Also pick whole grain dough when available.

• Before digging into the more calorie-rich or indulgent foods, eat a salad full of vegetables and topped with a low-fat dressing to help fill you up. That way, you can still enjoy the flavor of the more calorie-rich options, but you'll eat less.

• For a beverage, choose no-calorie or low-calorie options, such as un-sweetened iced tea or sparkling water flavored with fresh fruit.

• Make dessert fun by highlighting your favorite team's colors, such as low sugar jello with fruit, or mix fresh strawberries and blueberries and top with a dollop of low-fat dairy topping.

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