The big game is coming up this weekend, and the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles prepare to battle it out on the gridiron in the culmination of another season of football—hopefully you’ve taken the time to brush up on your Roman numerals. Not only will the winner be crowned world champs, you can rest assured their opponents will have them circled on their schedules as “the team to beat” next season.
Fun fact: This Sunday will be second largest “eating holiday” second only to…you guess it—Thanksgiving.
Football Fitness Challenge
Just because you’ll be sitting on the sidelines warming the bench this Sunday, it doesn’t mean you should fumble your food choices. And I’ve got good news for you; I’ve got a whole slew of healthy recipes for you to ensure you’re the Tom Brady of your football watch party.
Of course, the Big Game is notorious for making couch potatoes out of even the fittest of folks. With that in mind, here’s a fun challenge for you and your crew to do while you are watching the big game. Any time either team scores or gets a first down, you’ll do a set of a body weight exercise. You can set it up however you like, and here’s what I plan to do.
Each time a team:
• Scores a Touchdown: 20 push-ups
• Kicks an extra point: 5 pushups
• Converts a two-point conversion 5 burpees
• Kicks a field goal: 20 squats
• Every Extra Point: 5 more push-ups
• Gets a safety 50 jumping jacks
• Gets a first down: 5 lunges (each leg)
Now for the moment you have all been waiting for…the starting line-up of snack recipes that will take your party to victory!
Your Snack Starting Line-Up
Snack #1: The Big Hit Buffalo Chicken Wings
If there is one food that goes hand-in-hand with sports, it’s chicken wings, more specifically Buffalo wings. In fact, there are several sports bars that specialize on the winning combination of chicken wings and wall-to-wall televisions.
Traditional chicken wings leave a lot to be desired when it comes to clean eating. They’re typically deep-fried in industrial seed/vegetable oils, which can promote inflammation, and after that, they take a bath in a calorie-dense sauce, which is at best made with butter, and at worst, made with canola oil or another industrial seed oil.
In my attempts to “healthify” the ol’ Buffalo wing, I admit that I have failed several times, but those attempts led me to this winning recipe, which I can’t wait to share it with you.
For this recipe, I recommend using both a slow cooker and a grill. Here’s what you’ll need.
- 24 chicken wings (Personally, I prefer the wing portion, not the drummy—I know, craziness!)
- 1 cup FRANK’S REDHOT® sauce (or, the hot sauce of your choice)
- 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- Begin by putting the chicken wings into the slow cooker and coat them with hot sauce. I usually keep them basting in there until they are almost cooked. This could be anywhere from 1 – 2 hours depending on the depth of your slow cooker and the heat setting you use. This step allows the chicken to soak up as much of the hot sauce as possible so there is flavor in every bite.
- While the wings are in the slow cooker, preheat your grill. Transfer the wings to your grill, putting them on the top rack. Brush the wings with a mixture of 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil and ½ cup of hot sauce. You can experiment with the ratio, and you can add garlic or spices of your liking.
- When you notice that the wings are getting a nice golden brown color and the outer skin begins to crisp, flip them over and brush the other side with the coconut oil/hot sauce mixture. Since the wings will be are mostly cooked in the slow cooker, the purpose of the grilling is to add that crispiness you would get from deep frying while also locking in that signature “Buffalo” flavor.
• Honey mustard is a milder, yet flavorful alternative to hot sauce. You could use 2 parts Dijon mustard and 1 part honey, seasoned with 1 teaspoon each of garlic, onion, and mustard powder.
• Balsamic soy sauce is another great option, giving the wings a nice, delicious glaze. Both of these flavors are strong on their own, and I would recommend a 3 to 1 ratio of balsamic vinegar to soy sauce. You may need to add a little stock to marinate them in the slow cooker.
• Speaking of which, if you just wanted to cook the wings in a stock in the slow cooker, you could add some spices or herbs once you throw them on the grill to crisp them. Even just a garlic lime, or a lemon zest would be very refreshing.
• While you could easily grab a bottle of barbecue sauce off the shelf, those tend to be calorie-dense and loaded with added of sugars, not to mention ingredients that I cannot even pronounce. An easy and basic barbecue sauce recipe you can prepare yourself is ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 cups (16-ounce can) tomato sauce, 1 cup water or chicken stock, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, and salt and pepper to taste. That is super basic—and super delicious.
Snack #2: Pigskin Tenders
If you want something a little simpler and still want some protein on your platter, this next recipe is a game changer. This is also a great option if the play clock is running down on your party; in other words, it’s a time-saver and a perfect last-minute recipe.
Of course, when it comes to game day snacks, bite-sized is the way to go. If you are anything like me, you have to leave one hand free for “talking” or possibly yelling at the at the referee on TV. So, you really only have one hand free for snacks.
The reason I call this recipe “Pigskin Tenders” is because it’s simply chunks of chicken breasts wrapped in pieces of bacon. Think of it as wrapping your chicken in a little blanket—a bacon blanket, which keeps the chicken moist and gives it great flavor. If you want to get fancy, you could try prosciutto, or if you’re looking to keep things a little lighter, you could go with turkey bacon.
For what it’s worth, I prefer to use a broiling pan for this recipe because it allows for some of the excess fat from the bacon to drip off, leaving you with a cleaner, less greasy snack. Of course, you could always repurpose those bacon drippings for another delicious meal.
If you try this for your next gathering, I have a feeling your friends and family will rave about it. Here it is!
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 pound bacon
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Cut your chicken breasts into 2-inch chunks.
- Cut your bacon slices into thirds or halves—pieces long enough so that they wrap around the chicken breast chunks.
- Wrap a slice of bacon around each chunk of chicken, tucking the ends underneath.
- Place each piece of bacon-wrapped piece of chicken on a broiling pan and place in the oven.
- When the bacon begins to look crispy, remove the broiling pan from the oven and turn over the pieces of chicken using a pair of tongs. Place the broiling pan back in the oven until both sides are evenly cooked.
For game day snacks, bite sized is the way to go. If you are Italian like me, you have to leave one hand free for “talking” or possibly yelling at the television at the referee, so you really only have one hand for snacks.
Keeping this one simple and hope you try this for your next get together or game day snack. This will result in a moist and flavorful chicken that all your friends will rave about.
Snack #3: The Classic Veggie Tray (with a twist)
This third recipe is a game day staple: a tray of cut raw vegetables, also known as “the veggie tray.” I mean, what self-respecting football watch party is complete without the token veggie tray? Is it even a party without one?
Eating your veggies doesn’t have to be boring. When I make a veggie tray, I include as many different colors of veggies (a variety of bell peppers, carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, radishes) as I can, and I cut everything bite-sized to eliminate the dreaded “double dipping,” which, if you ask me, should draw a yellow flag as a party foul.
In my experience, where the veggie tray often goes sour is with the dip. Traditional dips are made with sour cream, mayonnaise, and/or cream cheese. Instead, I like to use Greek yogurt, which is packed with protein and even contains some gut-friendly probiotics, and then I add a variety of fresh herbs and spices.
For the Big Game this Sunday, here’s the dip that will complement my veggie tray.
- 1 cup of Greek Yogurt
- 1 clove of garlic (minced)
- 2 tbs fresh dill, chopped
- 2 tbs fresh chives, chopped
- 1 tbs lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Snack #4: Halftime Hummus
Another dip that goes great with veggies is homemade hummus. I recently experimented with a few different variations for dipping veggies and toasted pita, and out of the varieties I tested, this sweet potato hummus recipe seemed to be the biggest hit.
Sweet potatoes are jam-packed with beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, a vitamin that plays a key role in skin health, immune function, and eye health and vision. By serving this dip with raw vegetables (such as red peppers and broccoli), you also get selenium, vitamin C, and sulforaphane, which is a phytonutrient found in broccoli and other Cruciferous veggies that can enhance carbohydrate and fat metabolism. And let’s face it, this vibrant orange-colored dip sure looks fantastic surrounded by brightly colored vegetables.
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 can (19.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- Begin by cooking (boiling or steaming works best) the sweet potatoes. Once tender, transfer to a food processor. Don’t worry if you don’t have a food processor, you can either use a blender or mash them up by hand.
- Combine chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, oil, cumin, and garlic in the food processor.
- Season with salt and pepper to your liking, and let cool. *If you wanted to kick it up a notch, you could certainly add some additional spices, I would recommend paprika.
- Serve with veggies or toasted pita.
If you have any of this refreshingly tasty dip leftover (I’d be surprised if you did), you can refrigerate in an airtight container, and it should last about one week.
Snack #5: Touchdown Dip
Another fan favorite is 7-layer dip, which I like to call “Touchdown Dip.” Why, you might ask? Well, a touchdown is worth seven points; well, a touchdown PLUS the extra point is seven points. However, no one is going to say, “Wow, that’s great touchdown plus the extra point dip. I digress.
While there are many variations of the 7-layer dip, the most popular goes like this (from bottom to top):
• Refried beans
• A mayonnaise/sour cream mixture
I didn’t want to stray too far from the deliciousness of the original, but I did make a few tweaks to healthify the Touchdown Dip while slashing some calories.
• 2 cups black beans, drained, rinsed, and puréed
• 2 cups avocados, pitted and mashed
• 2 cups Greek yogurt
• 1 package taco seasoning
• 1 cup cheddar cheese
• 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
• ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
• ¼ cup green onions, chopped
1. Spread the pureed black beans for your first layer.
2. Next, add the mashed avocado.
3. For your third layer, spread the Greek yogurt mixed with taco seasoning.
4. Then, layer with the following in order: cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions.
This is traditionally served with corn tortilla chips; however, you can swap those out for some rice chips. Instead of chips, I like to serve the Touchdown Dip with crunchy veggies like cucumber slices and bell peppers triangles, which give the appearance of chips.