Give your favorite game day snacks a healthy makeover.
Family Health

8 Smart Swaps for Healthier Game Day Snacks

Sunday football get-togethers are a treasured American tradition -- but between the chicken wings, pizza, beer, and other high-calorie classics, it can be easy to overdo it.

As a dietitian, I'm experienced in helping people find calorie-conscious alternatives for the foods they love so that they can enjoy what they eat without feeling deprived. Here are some lighter game day snacks that you can feel good about sharing with your friends and family.

1. Air-Popped Popcorn

Swapping out three cups of air-popped popcorn for 30 potato chips will save you 172 calories. That's right: Three generous cups of air-popped popcorn have only 93 calories. Plus, popcorn is a whole grain, so its fiber will fill you up and make you less likely to overindulge on other foods. For a nearly calorie-free flavor kick, sprinkle on a little sriracha.

2. Guacamole

Guacamole isn't fattening. It's the foods we put it on -- like burritos, nachos, and chips -- that make the calories add up quickly. With only 25 calories per tablespoon, this avocado dip is actually a calorie bargain. Try swapping in a quarter-cup of guacamole for a quarter-cup of onion dip. For even healthier dipping, you can skip the chips and scoop your guacamole with sliced red and yellow bell peppers.

3. Light Beer

If watching the big game just isn't the same without a brew, there's good news. One 12-ounce can or bottle of beer is a perfectly preportioned way to keep tabs on exactly how much you're drinking. Just make sure to reach for light instead of regular. With less alcohol, you'll be more likely to make smarter food decisions all afternoon long -- plus, you'll save 43 calories per brew by choosing the light version.

4. Thin-Crust Pizza

Pizza is definitely in the running for America's favorite football snack. But with 300 calories in just one slice of pepperoni pizza, that snack ends up looking more like a meal. To keep your slice snack-sized, cut it in half. Why not switch to thin crust and forgo the pepperoni, too? In addition to cutting 185 calories, you'll also save 361 milligrams of sodium.

5. Shrimp Cocktail

With 1,095 calories and more than a day's recommended serving of saturated fat, hot wings with blue cheese dressing could be the most caloric and least healthy food on your game day table. Go for shrimp and cocktail sauce instead. With 15 shrimp and 2 tablespoons of cocktail sauce, you'll rack up heart-healthy omega-3 fats for a respectable 112 calories.

6. Corn Tortillas

Tacos might seem like the perfect football finger food, but those tortillas can be a sneaky source of calories. Downsize your regular 8-inch flour tortilla to a 6-inch corn tortilla, and you'll shave off 95 calories. For an even healthier taco, trade beef for black or pinto beans. You'll score more filling fiber and lose the saturated fat.

7. Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

Nobody wants to sit out dessert. But with 180 calories apiece, even small treats like chocolate chip cookies can add up. Swap in three chocolate-dipped strawberries for three cookies, and you can still enjoy a sweet ending without feeling weighed down by the fourth quarter. Plus, you'll save 456 calories while you're at it.

8. Smaller Plates

Want to enjoy all of your football favorites without making a single swap? Simply substitute a lunch-sized plate in for a dinner-sized plate. You'll automatically serve yourself 14 percent of the calories.

So go ahead and try these healthier game day snacks and swaps. They're every bit as delicious but a whole lot lighter!

Posted in Family Health

Karen Ansel is a nationally recognized nutrition consultant, speaker, journalist and author. Her work has been featured in Fitness, Shape, Oprah, Weight Watchers, Parade, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Health magazines. She received her Master's of Science in clinical nutrition from New York University. An active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Karen belongs to several dietetic practice groups including Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Nutrition Entrepreneurs.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.