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It's Called Pigskin -- Not Pig-Out -- Season

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Like many things in life, there's a right way and there's a wrong way to eat. Unfortunately, many of us have chosen the wrong way. And what better way to pull a dietary end-around than to belly up to a tailgate party buffet and eat like there's no tomorrow?

Chicken wings... fried chicken... ribs... pizza... chips... dips...The latter could refer to you and me when we insist on overdoing it week in and week out in the name of football. If eDiets employed referees they'd be tossing flag after flag our way and slapping us with a plate "piling on" infraction. Face it folks, finger foods washed down by beer or soda will foul up many a diet this season.

While strolling through the local Sam's Club last week I grabbed a bag of Tyson chicken wings and checked the label. At first glance, the news isn't all that terrible: a serving of Buffalo Hot Wings has 140 calories and 9 grams of fat (2.5 grams are the stick to your blood vessels saturated variety). The Honey BBQ version was slightly worse at 160 calories and 10 grams of fat (2.5 saturated). However... we are talking TWO WINGS per serving. When was the last time you attended a party and had just two wings? Never? Me too...

Far be it from me -- a Penn State University grad and a lifelong New York Jets fan -- to tell you to pull the plug on your pre-game partying. Ain't gonna happen anytime before you-know-what freezes over. I am going to ask you to digest the revealing numbers (culled from the info-packed eDiets archives, mind you) I am about to serve up and then give our just-as-tasty alternatives a try. Yes, it could involve cooking rather than running to the grocery store deli or neighborhood fast food joint, but in the long run your belly and heart will thank you.

Oh, one more thing: I know it may sound blasphemous to some of you, but why not give light beer a try this year? I was a die-hard Bud fan for many years. No real man drinks a light beer, I told myself time and time again. Heck, I even teased friends who reached for a Miller Lite rather than a full-flavored, full-calorie brew. Guess what? A few years ago I pulled a reverse play (I admit... it was waistline-induced) and became a fan of light beers. Now, on those rare occasions I imbibe in a regular Bud, I cringe at the taste. So give it a try. The calories you save really do add up.

Are You Ready For Some Foodball?

And now ladies and gentlemen, here are the starting players for your football party spread. First we give you the "player" and its stats, then we provide the numbers for the replacement players. Playing wideout...

FRIED CHICKEN: Sorry Colonel... you can do your silly little dance somewhere else. Remember, just because its all-white meat, doesnt make it lean. One 6.5-ounce extra-crispy breast from KFC has 470 calories and 28 grams of fat. KFCs drumstick will set you back 195 calories and 12 grams of fat, and even that little wing manages to cram in 220 calories and 15 grams of fat!

It'll take a little work but you'll be far better off to "fry up" your own chicken, using this great recipe:

Buttermilk “Fried” Chicken

4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup fat-free buttermilk
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Heat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse chicken breasts in running water and pat dry. Pour buttermilk, crushed corn flakes, and flour seasoned with salt and pepper into three separate shallow bowls. Dredge each chicken breast in buttermilk, then in flour, back into buttermilk, then into corn flakes. Arrange corn flake-coated chicken breasts on baking sheet and bake, about 8 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through.

Makes 4 servings. Nutritional values per serving: 250 calories, 2g fat, 31g carbohydrate, 27g protein, 4g fiber and 1,870mg sodium.

CHICKEN WINGS: How bad could they be? Theyre chicken, after all, right? That may be true, but wings are considered dark meat, which is more fatty than its lighter counterpart. And once you drench them in oil and dip them in blue cheese, they might as well be any other meat.

So get cookin' and enjoy our Better Buffalo Wings...

1 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. olive oil
3 (4-oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
3/4 cup fat-free blue cheese dressing

Combine paprika, hot sauce and olive oil; add chicken and toss well to coat. Marinate chicken in refrigerator, about 1 hour. Heat broiler. Arrange chicken on broiler pan and cook, five minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with dressing for dipping.

Makes 6 servings. Nutritional values per serving: 120 calories, 2g fat, 13g carbohydrate, 14g protein, 500mg sodium, and 1 grams fiber.

RIBS: A typical 8-ounce restaurant serving of barbecue pork ribs has 645 calories and 43 grams of fat. That's even more fat grams than youd get from an order of Chicken Tenders, a regular-size French fries and a vanilla milk shake from Burger King.

So if you’re following an 1,800-calorie diet plan, an order of ribs will give you more than 70 percent of your recommended daily limit for fat in one meal!

We recommend you head down your supermarket’s frozen food aisle and grab a box of Gardenburger Meatless Riblets (they're made from soy protein). Pop a riblet in the microwave for about three and a half minutes and you can get your flame-broiled fix for just 210 calories and 5 grams of fat.

If you're up to a little pre-game kitchen work, you can try this recipe:

Turkey Barbecue

These saucy sandwiches can get a little messy, so serve ‘em up with a stack of napkins. If you prefer, substitute chicken breasts for the turkey.

4 (4-oz.) turkey breast cutlets
2 cups barbecue sauce
1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup mushrooms
4 whole-wheat rolls

Marinate turkey cutlets in barbecue sauce in the refrigerator, about 1 hour. Heat grill and cook cutlets, about 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Coat a nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray; add chicken broth and heat. Add onion and mushrooms and sauté until browned. Shred turkey by pulling apart with a fork; serve on toasted rolls topped with mushroom and onions and additional barbecue sauce, if desired.

Makes 4 servings. Nutritional values per serving: 290 calories, 5g fat, 33g carbohydrate, 29g protein, 4g fiber and 1,400mg sodium.

NACHOS: It thickens us to know that an order of beef 'n cheese nachos can have as much fat as 10 glazed doughnuts at Dunkin' Donuts. Rather than opt for restaurant recipes that are nacho cup of tea, try this great alternative courtesy of Forbidden Foods Diabetic Cooking (American Diabetes Association)...

When topped with cheese, tomatoes and other healthy ingredients, these hearty nachos are the perfect way to stay on the ball while losing weight.

4 cups low-fat baked tortilla chips
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. canned chopped green chilies
1/2 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives
1 green onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1-2 pickled jalapeno peppers, sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a large heatproof platter or baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Scatter the tortilla chips evenly over the platter. Sprinkle them evenly with the cheese and green chilies and broil until the cheese melts (2 to 3 minutes). Top nachos with tomato, olives, onions, cilantro and jalapeno peppers. Serve immediately.

Makes six 3/4-cup servings. Nutritional values per serving: 172 calories, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 20mg cholesterol, 319mg sodium, 7 grams protein.

For more information about Forbidden Foods Diabetic Cooking, visit www.diabetes.org.

If you want to keep some more “traditional” football party fare, opt for low-fat versions. Some ideas from your plan include low-fat nachos, snack pizzas, picante potato wedges, hummus dip with crackers, crackers and cheese, sour cream dip with carrots, tortilla chips with salsa, baby carrots, popcorn, pretzels and cheesy pita chips. Just don’t forget to pay attention to portion sizes!

And now for some great advice for serving other game foods that'll score big with your guests.

The Tip Off...

Before kickoff, serve dinner so you and your guests won't be famished, which can lead to going overboard on snacks. Prepare our favorite filling pre-game meals -- they're sure to make fans of the whole family:

Turkey Chili: Substitute lean ground turkey breast or red and black beans for ground beef in your favorite chili recipe (use cooking spray instead of oil, too). Top with chopped tomatoes and peppers for a crunchy, hearty texture.

Mushroom Burgers: Look for these cheesy, meatless burgers in your grocer's freezer section. Pile them along with sandwich-style pickles and all the usual burger fixings on whole-grain rolls, or slice them up and layer on mixed greens.

Tofu Hot Dogs or Turkey Sausages: You'll feel like you're right in the stands when you bite into one of these smarter alternatives to beef or pork hot dogs and sausages. Load them up with deli mustard, relish, onions and peppers, or sauerkraut to boost the "fill you up" factor.

Boca Nuggets: These soy-based bites taste just like fried chicken nuggets (see if the family can tell, we dare you!), but they're much lower in fat. Serve them with barbecue sauce or honey mustard for dipping. Also look for boneless, skinless hot wings -- a terrific stand in for Buffalo wings alongside fat-free blue cheese dressing and crunchy celery spears.

Baked Potato Skins: Bake potatoes, then slice in half and scoop out the center, leaving about a quarter-inch of potato flesh inside each skin; spray with butter-flavor cooking spray and broil, potato side down, 5 minutes or until browned. Turn and broil a few minutes more; top with imitation bacon bits and chives.

Spicy Popcorn: Spray air-popped popcorn with butter-flavor nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with cayenne pepper or Old Bay seasoning.

Pita Chips 'n Mexican Dip: Cut pita bread into triangles and spray with olive-oil flavor cooking spray; broil until golden brown and crisp. Mix black bean dip and salsa; serve as a spicy pita dip.

And here's a great tip to prevent yet another yellow flag from the eDiets referees (the infraction: too many beers or alcoholic drinks on the field):

Call a time-out from alcohol. If you’ve been drinking alcoholic beverages, alternate with something non-alcoholic, like sparkling water with lime or diet iced tea. This will cut back on calories and prevent the loss of inhibition that can lead to overeating. Better yet, reach for water to keep you hydrated and aid in weight loss.

One regular beer ranges between 150 to 200 calories, while a light beer has only about 100 calories. A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 100 calories, as does 1-ounce of alcoholic spirits such as vodka, gin or scotch.

Don’t forget: substituting juice for regular soda is like substituting regular sour cream for mayonnaise. You’re not saving calories! An 8-ounce glass of juice, unsweetened, has about 120 calories.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks go out to my favorite team, the eDiets editorial staff and director of nutrition Susan Burke, for their help in putting this special football issue together.

FEEDBACK

I have just read both columns on the Center for Consumer Freedom and I have to say that I agree with the folks who point out the rising costs of health care, prescriptions and insurance as a significant and often ignored side effect of poor eating. We have for too long been absolved of the responsibility for our actions and our actions are the result of the freedom to choose. The bottom line is always the bottom line. We should know by now that no one will ever be able to legislate behavior (alcohol, tobacco, prostitution, drugs). All attempts have failed miserably. So, give an insurance discount to people who don't eat "bad food," make all food delivery organizations post the nutritional content of the foods they sell, and exclude obesity and obesity-related conditions from payment by medical insurances. Since we seem to have the will to spend our money on things that can harm (and possibly kill) us over time we can also have the will to save money to pay for the medical costs.
Diana Dolan

I work for Starbucks as a lowly barista. At my position I have access to all the varied diet-busting drinks we sell and their nutritional info. It should not be difficult to obtain the nutritional info for all our products including pastries. I work at a store in Houston ("the heaviest city in America") and we keep our nutrition info binder by the register where we can answer those questions quickly. It contains all our drink info and most pastries. Always ask the store employees first, then ask for the manager. If they don't know or aren't able to locate the info in the store they should not be a manager -- it is one of the first things I was taught as a barista.
Justin Nava

I have been troubled by the excessive weight gain in this country and the reasons given by the experts as to why so many people are gaining. It seems to me that about the time there was so much emphasis placed on the smoking habit and many people attempted to stop smoking, that the weight gains became so pronounced. I think that many people who stopped that horrible habit substituted eating for smoking. I do not hear the experts mention this very often. It seems to be a logical if not plausible reason or excuse for this serious problem.
Erma Thompson

Just to let you know you can get the nutritional info for all of those tight-lipped franchises at www.calorieking.com. Just type in their name and you're on your way to a big, fat surprise.
Shannon Meehan

LEAVE 'EM LAUGHING

Reader Erin Johnson supplied these one-liners on our favorite subject... food!

The snack bar next door to the nuclear plant is called "The Fission Chips."

A couple of kids who tried using pickles for a Ping-Pong game found out they were in the "volley of the dills."

The four food groups: Fast, Frozen, Instant and Chocolate.

A friend of mine got some vinegar in his ear -- he now suffers from pickled hearing.

Overweight is something that just sort of snacks up on you.

Until next week, the kitchen is closed. But if you have any questions and/or comments -- or a tasteful joke to share -- feel free to write me, eDiets editor-in-chief John McGran, at john@ediets.com.

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