Study: eating lots of junk food Super Bowl Sunday could pose health risks

CLEVELAND - If you're hosting a party or going to one this Sunday to watch the Patriots and Giants battle in the big game, you may want to think twice about the food you consume -- and how much.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, wellness manager and dietician at the Cleveland Clinic, said several studies have shown one very high fat meal could affect your cardiac function.

"Eating poorly one day could put you at risk for a heart attack," Kirkpatrick explained. "To think that one horrible meal won't affect you may not be the case."

Especially with the New Year just kicking off, people who have made a commitment to eat healthier or lose weight could be most negatively affected by a poor food choice for one day.

"Sometimes having just one awful night can set you into a spiral affect of more days of awful eating. You get off track and never get back on track. If your taste buds are trying to be healthy, then they taste junk, they'll crave the salt or the sugar from the junk after just one day," said Kirkpatrick.

She also related the Super Bowl to a holiday, explaining people can eat just as bad watching a football game as they may on Halloween.

"One of the worst offenders in terms of high fat foods is pizza. The crust can be stuffed with cheese or pepperoni," said Kirkpatrick. "The key to eating healthy is doing so in moderation. Three pieces of pizza is too much."

Wings are another football-lovers food that isn't the healthiest to consume. It's because they're typically fried, high in calories, fat and loaded with sugar from the sauce.

"Your blood sugar is probably screaming for help," said Kirkpatrick.

Nachos is another food that can get you in trouble. Kirkpatrick said it's because we typically eat too much of them when we're distracted.

"When you eat while you're distracted, you eat 44 percent more," explained Kirkpatrick. "A Super Bowl party is the perfect storm for an unhealthy night."

To give you an idea of your caloric intake, just two jalapeno poppers or mozzarella sticks each have 100 calories.

"Drinking doesn't make matters any better," added Kirkpatrick.

Some foods that aren't the healthiest may surprise you, including dips, some wraps and pretzels.

"Pretzels are made from white flour. Eating a lot of them can have an extreme effect on your blood sugar, similar to the effect if you ate straight sugar. They're simple carbs," said Kirkpatrick.

It's possible with the Patriots competing for the title of Super Bowl champions that some hosts will serve New England clam chowder. You should be warned. Kirkpatrick said it's extremely high in fat and calories.

Just think -- one pound of food is equal to 3,500 calories. To burn 100 calories you would have to walk one mile. If you consume a serving of fried wings lathered in sweet sauce, you would have to walk eight miles to burn off the 800 or so calories. Let's be honest. No one's going to do that after watching the late game.

Don't worry. There are healthier options to the foods that make the "worst offenders" list.

  • Rethink dips: Use salsa or hummus instead of spinach and artichoke dip. Make a black bean or soy bean dip. Pair with baked whole grain tortilla chips or vegetables.
  • Serve burgers: Consider a variety. Try salmon or garden burgers.
  • Make your own baked wings. Marinate them and bake them in the oven without the skin.
  • Instead of pretzels in a basket or bowl, put popcorn in them -- the kind you pop yourself. Popcorn is satisfying, high in fiber and low in calories.
  • Chili: substitute all meat chili for 100 percent ground turkey or chicken breast.

Kirkpatrick urges not to let a Super Bowl party be the beginning of unhealthy eating. "Get a great workout in Monday morning. Do something healthy. Get back on track on Monday."

If you'll be going to a party, you could bring a healthier dish to share. If you're hosting a get together, make some traditional food, but mix in some healthier versions.

"Try to remain mindful during consumption of food. You can eat out of stress. Try not to associate your consumption with the emotions you're feeling with the game," said Kirkpatrick.

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