4 game day diet dos

Follow this healthy eating Grey Cup game plan for your next tailgate party.

By Andrea Mawson, RD, and Erika Brown

4 game day diet dos
©iStockphoto.com/iofoto
All right, team. Huddle up! The buzz surrounding the 101st annual Grey Cup isn't just about the game. It's also about the party, and there just isn't a party without food – especially when it comes to football.

A typical tailgate spread is notoriously laden with fat, salt, sugar and alcohol, which can easily sack anyone's healthful food plan. Most people start eating like linebackers and can easily pack away more than 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat in just a few short hours – and that's on top of the day's regular meals.

If you are watching what you eat, there's no need to sit on the sidelines and avoid football party foods altogether. Just tackle these four simple steps for a foolproof game plan and you'll be sure to keep your healthful eating plan on track.

1. Know your opponent.
To avoid a game day blunder, make sure you prepare some delicious and nutritious foods that everyone will enjoy. Health is usually the last thing on people's minds on game day, but it's easy to make a few simple swaps that will keep your old favourites on the menu and the crowd cheering for more: Skip ordering pizza and make bite-size bruschetta instead. This tasty Italian appetizer is a simple and delicious way to control portions. Also get creative and experiment with low-calorie ingredients: Mashing green peas into your guacamole can easily cut the calories in half and add tons of vitamins and minerals, and no one will ever notice the difference.

2. Don't forget to warm up.
People often try to "save" calories on game day by avoiding food until the feasting begins. But skipping meals will only make you ravenous and you'll end up overeating before you know it. Instead, beat the blitz by eating fibre- and nutrient-rich meals and snacks to keep your energy up and hunger at bay leading up to kickoff. To avoid a false start, make sure to have a small snack before game time. Try a bowl of vegetable soup or fruit and cheese to curb your pre-game cravings.

3. Stay hydrated.
What's the point of healthful eating if you're just going to end up drinking all those calories that you worked so hard to save? Not only is alcohol full of empty calories, but it also leads to overindulgence. Choose lighter varieties such as low-calorie beer and cocktails mixed with soda water instead of pop or juice, and make sure to alternate with water to cut calories and stay hydrated.

4. Take a time out.

There is a good chance you will take in extra calories regardless of how light you make your menu. Schedule a break from the buffet for some physical activity. How about some touch football at halftime in honour of the day? Just 30 minutes of touch football burns almost 300 calories and is a great way to get everyone re-energized for the second half.

Congratulations, you've done it! You have a pre-game plan for a food-filled Grey Cup party that won't sabotage all that hard work you've been doing to cut the fat. You can take a victory lap knowing that your healthful eating wasn't intercepted by all the store-bought snacks and takeout food that will surely leave other football fans groaning on Monday and dying to know your secret.

Try these simple calorie-saving swaps:
1. Make a pot of vegetarian chili or use low-fat ground turkey breast in place of beef to cut the fat
2. Instead of chicken wings, make chicken fingers by baking skinless chicken breast strips coated in bread crumbs and seasoning
3. Replace the sour cream and mayo in your dip recipes with fat-free Greek yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese
4. Serve a fruit platter instead of a dessert tray
5. Replace chips with dry cereal, air-popped popcorn and pretzels
6. Instead of cheese and crackers, serve pita wedges and veggies with hummus

Andrea Mawson is a nutritionist and registered dietitian specializing in weight loss. She's the creator of an innovative nutritional program she has used on clients across Canada to achieve and maintain optimal weight, and improve health and well-being. For more information visit www.andreamawson.ca.

We have lots more tips to help you have a yummy game day, including a fun menu for a block party.

All rights reserved. Transcontinental Media G.P. © 2014