Game Food: Help Your Children Eat Like Champs

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Children look up to the athletes they see in the media, admiring their speed and strength, recognizing that their physical abilities help make them competitive. Watching your family’s favorite teams during Super Bowl or March Madness is a prime time to talk to kids about making healthy choices and sharpening your family’s good eating habits.

Let your kids know that the government’s recommendations that we eat less salt, get more exercise, use smaller portion sizes and drink way less soda will put them ahead of the game physically and mentally.

Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, advises sports fans to pay attention to what they eat when they are following the big games.

“If you eat the way athletes do – diets that balance foods low in fats, lean proteins and some carbohydrates – you’re more likely to make it through the party unscathed,” Politi says. During the excitement and emotional ups and downs of a big game, “you can consume thousands of calories and hundreds of fat grams without thinking about what you’re doing.”

The following tips are compiled from Duke Diet and Fitness Center as well as All Recipes (

Have a Game Plan

Keeping foods in a designated area will prevent your kids from wandering in and out of cabinets and pantries in search of snacks. Having food prepared ahead of time also makes it easier to offer healthy options. So try to make it to the supermarket before game night to stock up. And while the game is on, set out snack-sized portions.

Dunk It

Kids like to dip, so offer healthy choices for dippers and dips. Modify the classic vegetables and ranch dip combination. Instead of using the traditional store-bought ranch dip, try creating your own, cutting back on the mayonnaise and sour cream; both ingredients are loaded with calories and fat. Provide a colorful and nourishing tray of celery, tomato, cauliflower, carrots and broccoli for accompanying dippers.

If you’d rather stay away from the creamy dips, blend red kidney beans, chopped tomato, parsley, vinegar, chili powder and cumin for a zesty option. Protein-rich hummus or salsa are also chock full of nutrients. Try serving them with baked tortilla or potato chips, pita triangles or whole-wheat crackers. And for a sweet alternative, fruit dips satisfy the sweet tooth without forfeiting nutrients. Your children can dip their favorite fruits and berries in flavored yogurts and applesauce.

Be a Lean Hero

Order or make a deli platter filled with ham, turkey, lean roast beef, grilled chicken and low-fat cheeses instead of the traditional Italian hero, which is loaded with processed meats and cheeses. Pile on lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and roasted red peppers. Wrap it up in a low-calorie tortilla with mustard or low-fat condiments.


Play Up the Pizza

Pass on the saturated fat on the neighborhood pizza supreme and make your own version, Politi advises. Buy frozen pizza dough and top it with crushed fresh tomatoes, garlic and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese. Try adding a combination of fresh veggies that appeal to your family, such as peppers and onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes or olives.

By providing healthy choices from different food groups, your family will benefit from a well-balanced snacking experience while watching the big games, stoking their own physical well-being.

For more tips and recipes, visit:

Updated Feb. 1, 2011, Feb. 1, 2012

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