Chicken wings, spinach dip, and pizza will be on most people’s menus this weekend as Super Bowl Sunday kicks off–bad news for those of us that like to maintain some semblance of a healthy diet. And unfortunately, your guests probably won’t be too happy if you’re serving up raw sprouted chili and macrobiotic kale chips. But you can still make those traditional recipes healthier with a few minor tweaks–or even switch it up completely with these healthy, but just as tasty, recipes.
Chicken wings start out as a relatively lean protein–but when they’re deep-fried, covered in butter, and smothered with a sugar- and sodium-laden sauce, they become tiny, easy-to-overeat calorie bombs. Not convinced that a chicken can do that much damage? Lone Star’s chicken wings appetizer clocks in at 1,759 calories; just five chicken wings from Hooters adds 866 calories to your daily count.
Make it healthier: Begin by taking deep-frying out of the process: it not only adds unnecessary calories but also introduces acrylamide, a carcinogenic and neurotoxic by-product of deep-frying, into the equation. Use whole wheat flour and cornmeal for crunch, and call on herbs and spices for flavor; pan-fry the wings for that crispy finish.
Change it up: It’s the sweet and salty coating on chicken wings that most people crave–so try switching out chicken for shrimp. Shrimp is packed with astaxanthin, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and boosts immune function, as well as selenium and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which contribute to heart health.
Spinach dip and its close cousin, artichoke dip, don’t exactly count as vegetables. Those greens are hidden behind a heavy base of mayo, sour cream or cream cheese that add tons of saturated fat and calories. The average restaurant serving: 1,600 calories, 100 grams of fat, and 2,500 mg of sodium.
Make it healthier: Replace the mayo, sour cream, or cream cheese with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to remove most of the dip’s fat-laden calories, add muscle-building protein, and keep its creamy taste and texture. Ingredients like shallots, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice add flavor for minimal calories; double the spinach in the recipe to boost fiber, iron, and vitamins A and K intake.
Change it up: For a vegan spin on spinach dip, use beans as the base: each half cup serving adds 10 grams of satiating fiber, which will keep you from going back for seconds and thirds. Or try a hummus and bean dip hybrid by combining edamame with garbanzo beans, cumin, and spinach.
Super Bowl Sunday is the number one day for pizza sales: this year, Domino’s expects to serve up more than 11 million slices. Unfortunately for Americans’ waistlines, saturated fat- and sodium-heavy pepperoni and cheese are the two most popular topping choices. An average slice of pizza holds around 200-300 calories–not bad on its own, but a pretty hefty serving when you eat four or five slices.
Make it healthier: Start with a whole-wheat, thin crust base: it’ll add three grams of filling fiber and remove around 100 calories of refined carbs from each slice. Ask for extra tomato sauce and pile on the veggies–the extra bulk will displace some of that greasy cheese. And stick with leaner meats, like chicken and ham; meatballs, sausage, and pepperoni are packed with sodium and saturated fat.
Change it up: Sub out the refined carbs of pizza dough — which contribute to many of pizza’s calories — for nutrient-rich portobello mushroom caps. Large portobello caps are the perfect vehicle for tangy sauce and melted cheese, and because they’re so low in calories, they offer more room for decadent toppings like pesto and prosciutto. Try slices of eggplant if you’re not a mushroom fan.
Whether your chili lies atop a bed of spaghetti or drowns a hotdog, it’s probably too high in both calories and saturated fat thanks to generous servings of ground beef, cheese, and sour cream. An average bowl of beef chili can pack up to 600 calories–and that doesn’t count add-ons like chips and cornbread.
Make it healthier: Pick a bean-based recipe: beans are high in both protein and fiber (7 and 6 grams, respectively, per half cup), which help keep blood sugar levels–and thus energy and mood–stable during the big game. They’re also a good source of potassium, iron, folate, manganese, copper, and zinc. Sneak in vegetables (like tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and peppers) to add more nutrients; they’ll easily hide behind spices like cumin, paprika and chili powder.
Change it up: Posole, a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy and chicken (or sometimes pork), is fresh and light, making it a perfect side for heavier Super Bowl foods. Lime juice and cilantro add flavor for minimal calories, while radish and iceberg lettuce provide satisfying crunch.