Eating healthy on Super Bowl Sunday: Tips from a chef

On February 5, the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will compete at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas in the 51st Super Bowl. Football is a long standing American (and Canadian!) pastime and the final game of the season is often celebrated with a party, usually including a giant TV, all of your friends and a huge array of food. Fans dress up in team colours, paint their faces, and devote an entire Sunday to this culmination of a 17 week season.

Super Bowl parties are 50 per cent about the food. Sure, the game is important, but an important aspect of the day is getting together with friends, eating a lot of ridiculously decadent food, and enjoying the game. People who don’t know anything about football are still going to show up to your party. Super Bowl Sunday is basically a holiday. In fact, some people have argued that game day, and the Monday following it, should be an actual holiday including the closing of stores and the day off work. There was even a petition signed by thousands on the White House website to make it happen.

Over 115 million people watched the game on TV last year, and it can be assumed that while they were doing so they were eating something delicious, just like any other major holiday. Traditional Super Bowl foods are not always very good for you particularly in terms of calorie consumption. In 2015, the Washington Post reported that the average household in the US consumed about 6000 calories per person on Super Bowl Sunday. That adds up to even more food that was consumed on Thanksgiving weekend —for which the average American consumes about 4500 calories— and it gets worse if their team loses.

Heather Pace, a classically trained chef and owner of the Sweetly Raw Dessert Company in Victoria, BC, says she has a solution. Pace says mixing in a few healthy things with your mountains of Super Bowl food can make a big difference. Pace, who is also a blogger, and author of a raw dessert cookbook, focuses mainly on raw and vegan food, but says that people shouldn’t be scared to try it, even if they eat a regular diet.

“I like to bring these snacks to friends places that are regular eaters,” says Pace. “They always love the food.”

Pace says keeping your Super Bowl snacks healthy is not so much about taking things away as it is adding in different types of food and subbing out high-calorie items for lower-calorie alternatives. “As soon as you start saying ‘oh let’s take away,’ people get worried,you know? ‘Oh no you’re not going to take away my favourite food.’ So let them snack on whatever but add in the healthy options.”

Not everyone is going to convert to a raw vegan diet on the biggest snack day of the year. According to a study conducted by addiction treatment provider Recovery Brands, the average Canadian consumes over 3400 calories each day, only slightly below the US at just over 3500, and not that far behind the highest consumer, Austria, at over 3700 calories per person. This is already well over the suggested calorie intake for adults, which the Ontario government says should be between 2000 and 2400, though some people might need more or less depending on their activity level. Going on a diet is not for everyone, and in many cases is not effective. My Health Alberta says on their website that people should use extreme caution with low-calorie diets. While they might show results in the short term, they can be dangerous for some people without strict supervision from a doctor as they may not provide all the nutrients required by your body. But, you can take elements of raw or vegan diets and incorporate them into your regular meals to create low calorie alternatives to things you’d normally indulge in.

“With the raw food diet, everything is made out of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains, and that’s it,” says Pace. “That sounds pretty minimal but it’s amazing what you can actually do with that food group….I can replicate any dish…you name it, it can be done.”

When Pace describes what she would make for a super bowl party, it doesn’t sound that different from traditional food. Nachos, dips, chips, and platters of bite size food, served with fancy, fizzy drinks are staples at any party. A traditional veggie plate but with some added extras is a major feature in Pace’s spread. In addition to the regular broccoli, cauliflower, carrot sticks and bell pepper strips, Pace adds watermelon radishes, steamed asparagus, and even roasted sweet potato.

“I like to do a big platter like that which is bright and colourful and interesting and then serve it with a healthy dip. I like to do either eggplant dip, or hummus or guacamole.”

Pace says a good way to cut calories is to avoid dairy based dips, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the things you like. Instead, says Pace, try making a creamy ranch or herb dip out of blended cashews.

“The cashews are blended down with water and lemon juice and herbs and what not until it’s completely smooth and creamy. And you wouldn’t know the difference.”

One of the most heavily consumed foods on Super Bowl Sunday is chips. The snack food association says that Americans consume over 11 million pounds of potato chips on game day. At around 160 calories per 1oz serving, that’s a lot of food. One serving of Lay’s potato chips, for example, contains 90 calories from fat and 170 milligrams of sodium. However, you can’t have a dip without something to dip into it. Instead, says Pace, serve your dips, or a fresh homemade salsa, with dehydrated kale chips or baked sweet potato chips. Making them at home gives you control over how much salt you put on them, and keeps them out of the deep fryer.

Pace says it’s important to meet half way when it comes to healthy snacks. You can still have nachos, but a few minor tweaks can turn them from a calorie laden indulgence into something that is still delicious but is actually good for you.

“I actually do a healthy nacho recipe. I do use organic corn chips so that’s the only unhealthy part of the dish…but I do a cheese sauce out of butternut squash and I make crumbled ‘ground beef’ out of ground down mushrooms and zucchini, and it totally simulates beef. And I do cashew sour cream and guacamole. They’re the best nachos and you can’t even tell that they’re completely plant based.”

With all this food everyone is bound to get thirsty. Rather than reaching for high calorie drinks like pop and beer, Pace says she prefers to make fruit water, which she compares to a non-alcoholic sangria. “Basically, I’ll just get a big pitcher of water and add in chopped fresh fruit, like mangos, strawberries, apples, I’ll put blueberries in there, and fresh mint leaves,” said Pace. “The fresh mint really makes it. And I’ll do a squeeze of lime juice…and then sometimes I’ll even add sparkling water if I want to make it into a bit of a fizzy drink.”

If anyone has any room left, Pace says a sweet dessert very simple will cap off the party nicely. Make a fruit platter with grapes, cantaloupes, strawberries, pineapple, and orange slices, as well as anything else your guests might like serve it with a sweet dip.

“I like to serve it with a chocolate dip or a cashew-based dip mixed with peanut butter,” said Pace. “I really like the chocolate because, let’s be real, who doesn’t like chocolate and fruit together?”

To make the dip, Pace says she mixes together roasted almond butter and cocoa powder, as well as some maple syrup and himalayan salt. “It’s so tasty and so easy. I think if it’s easy, we’re going to make it.”

Pace agrees that how the food looks is just as important as what’s in it. “We eat with our eyes,” she says. “When people hear about the whole raw food thing or plant-based they think ‘oh that sounds really dry and boring’ but then when they see it they’re like ‘you’ve got to be kidding!’”

Pace says the key to eating healthy this Super Bowl Sunday is not in taking away all of the delicious foods you love, but rather in reimagining them and making a few substitutions. Most of her recipes are made up of simple ingredients that come together to make food that is familiar but still good for you.

Giving up snacks on game day is not going to happen, but with the government’s recent changes regarding the display of calorie content on restaurant menus, people might be thinking a little harder about how much they’re consuming. Making a few changes, like baked sweet potato instead of fried chips,  can help you indulge in your favourite recipes without going overboard.

 

 sweetlyraw.com /Heather Pace

sweetlyraw.com /Heather Pace

Vegan & Gluten Free Nachos

You will need:
Tortilla chips OR baked sweet potato chips
Butternut Nacho cheese sauce
Mushroom “meat”
Diced avocado or guacamole
Cashew sour cream
Salsa of choice (you can make your own!)
Sliced green onion
Butternut Nacho Cheese Sauce
2 cups packed, diced butternut squash
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
¼ cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons tahini
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons Himalayan or sea salt, or to taste

Boil the squash and the onion together in a pot of water until soft. Drain all the water off and add to a blender along with all other ingredients. Blend until very smooth.
Mushroom Meat
2 teaspoons oil of choice, divided
2 cups halved mushrooms
1 cup diced zucchini
¼ teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon tamari

In a food processor, grind the mushrooms down to rice sized bits. Set aside. Repeat with the zucchini. Do not over process or they’ll be mushy. Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan. Add the mushrooms and saute on medium high heat until they’re cooked. Transfer them to a bowl. Add the rest of the oil along with the zucchini and saute until cooked. Add the spices, tamari, and cooked mushrooms. Stir it all together and then remove from the heat.
Cashew Sour Cream
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon onion powder
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon himalayan or sea salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy in a high speed blender. Chill for a few hours.
Assembly
Arrange tortilla chips on a plate or baking sheet. Spoon blobs of the nacho cheese and mushroom meat on top. Optional: pop under the broiler for several minutes. Now top with the avocado, salsa, cashew sour cream, and green onion. Eat immediately

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