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If you want to be a little more healthy during this year's Super Bowl, consider exercising when your team scores and the quarters come to an end.

BLOOMINGTON — Super Bowl Sunday doesn't have to be Sedentary Sunday for football fans, whether they're fit or fat.

Yes, you can have your chicken wings and eat them, too — and enjoy the game, perhaps more than ever — with a revised food and activity game plan for a day known for sitting in front of the television, eating and drinking.

Call it — in the words of Teri Payne, health promotion specialist with the McLean County Health Department — a "healthy game plan."

"Don't think that Super Bowl Sunday is a complete wash" when it comes to healthy eating and movement, said Erin Kennedy, exercise physiologist and director of the Center for Healthy Lifestyles at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center.

"After all, the whole purpose (of Super Bowl parties) is to be with family and friends," said Cheryl Richards, exercise physiologist in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center.

"If you have a positive attitude about being active with others, then it becomes fun, it's a great thing to do, it's not a punishment or a chore," Richards said.

"It's time to have fun, laugh and build camaraderie with friends and family" and integrating physical activity into Super Bowl Sunday can do that, Kennedy said.

"Besides, watching football can be stressful if your favorite team is playing and activities can help you to de-stress," Kennedy said.

Here's how to enjoy Super Bowl Sunday without the day going into the health loss column:

Work out earlier

Going for a run, walking or hitting the gym earlier in the day will burn calories and give you an energy boost.

Richards suggests — weather permitting — a fun, family outdoor activity. For example, her physically active family enjoys running together, with occasional stops for squats, push-ups, planks and pull-ups.

Schedule your own game

If you're hosting a Super Bowl party, invite your guests one hour earlier than usual and encourage them to dress for activity, Richards suggested. After all, it's a Super Bowl party, not Christmas dinner. Guests who live nearby may choose to walk or jog to your home.

Weather permitting, play a game outside, she said. Maybe it's touch football. Maybe the kids want to play tag. Even older guests or those who don't feel comfortable playing would enjoy watching while fitting in a few steps themselves. Keep it fun and involve as many people as possible.

Bring a new dish

Super Bowl Sunday dishes are traditionally calorie-laden, but guests can change things up by bringing a healthier dish to pass.

Two recent successes for Richards have been cucumbers with hummus dip and quinoa vegetable burgers.

"People will say it looks weird but they end up liking it," Richards said.

Call in the substitutes

Traditional Super Bowl Party favorites may be enjoyed with fewer calories with simple substitutions, said Kim McClintic, registered dietitian with St. Joseph's Center for Healthy Lifestyles, and Sammy Barbier, Advocate BroMenn dietetic intern.

Bake or grill chicken wings rather than frying them and make chili with 90 percent lean ground beef or turkey rather than regular ground beef and load it with beans, carrots and celery. For dips, substitute non-fat Greek yogurt for sour cream or make salsa, bean or hummus dips rather than sour cream dip, they suggested.

Consider vegetables or whole-grain crackers for dipping rather than chips or use 50 percent baked chips with 50 percent regular chips to cut the fat and calories, McClintic suggested.

If a meat and cheese tray is a staple, use thin-sliced, lean ham, Canadian bacon, smoked turkey or lean prosciutto instead of pastrami, salami, pepperoni and sausage, McClintic said. For cheese, go with mozzarella, provolone or reduced-fat hard cheeses.

Drink in moderation

Super Bowl Party regulars are alcohol for adults who imbibe and soda pop for everyone else. Both are calorie-laden and overindulging on alcohol puts everyone at risk.

Drink in moderation (one serving of alcohol for women and two for men). Quench your thirst with water first and alternate your favorite drinks with servings of water.

Position yourself away from the area where drinks are being served, Barbier suggested. That forces you to get up, walk around and think twice before having that extra glass.

Have your own Super Bowl activity

Start a new tradition by encouraging fun movement during the game.

"Bring the outdoors in" by setting up a bean bag toss in your home to encourage movement when the kids — or adults — get antsy or if the game is boring, Richards said.

For people who don't want to take their eyes off the TV but who want to move, encourage fun movements, such as push-ups when there's a touchdown, crunches when there's a field goal, planks when there's a quarterback sack or squats for a point-after-touchdown, Richards suggested.

Activities may be adapted for people who don't want to get down on the floor. Activities also will give participants and people watching them something else to talk about — and maybe even laugh about — other than the football game.

"This is a day to enjoy a sport that America loves and to enjoy time with family and friends," Richards said. "Do it (make healthy decisions) for them."

"Who knows?" Payne asked. "Maybe using a healthy game plan will become the new tradition for celebrating Sunday Bowl Sunday."

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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