Pigging Out with the Pigskin

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Amazingly, Guinness (only 125 calories per 12 ounces), which has been brewed with the same formula since 1759, has about the same amount of calories as either Sam Adams Light (124 calories) or Michelob Light (134 calories). Michelob ULTRA is actually the lowest, with only 95 calories, but if you want a “regular” beer — Guinness is the answer.


  • Schlotzsky’s Ham & Cheese Original: 512 calories, 19g fat, 85g carbs, 30g protein
  • Schlotzsky’s Turkey Original: 583 calories, 24g fat, 54g carbs, 36g protein

You’d think the turkey would be the clear winner, but don’t forget that most delis add mayo, which, with 100 calories per tablespoon, turns this seemingly healthy option into a diet disaster. Substitute mustard, a fat-free dressing or ketchup to save calories and still enjoy great taste. When making or buying any sandwich, the key is to start with leaner cold cuts like turkey, chicken, roast beef and ham. On average, these contain no more than 110 calories and 5g fat for a 2-ounce serving. Avoid higher-fat meats like bacon, bologna, salami, pimento loaf and sausage. Cheese is a great source of calcium and protein, but it’s also a source of excess calories and fat — primarily saturated fat. One ounce of regular cheese contains about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat, of which 5 grams are saturated. Delis typically add three to five slices per sandwich, which sends the calorie and fat content skyrocketing. For more flavor and to fill you up, add vegetable slices, sweet peppers, pickles and plenty of lettuce.


  • 5 chicken wings with hot sauce and 3 tablespoons blue cheese dressing: 599 calories, 50g fat, 3g carbs, 33g protein
  • 1 slice stuffed crust pepperoni pizza: 370 calories, 15g fat, 42g carbs, 17g protein

Here again, you might think to yourself, “How harmful can wings be? They’re small, and it’s chicken after all!” But the reality is, those chicken wings are deep fried with their skin, making them a borderline health hazard, especially with the blue cheese dressing. So skip the dressing (without it the wings and pizza are almost tied for calories), or, better yet, go for a thin crust veggie pizza.


  • 15 carrot sticks and 1/4 cup French onion dip: 146 calories, 9g fat, 12g carbs, 3g protein
  • 1 cup tortilla chips with 1/2 cup salsa: 165 calories, 7g fat, 24g carbs, 4g protein

Believe it or not, it’s close. Vegetables are typically a low-calorie choice, but it depends on what you do with them. Just as french fries start out with fiber- and nutrient-rich potatoes but end up high in calories and fat, carrot sticks dunked in a mayo- or sour cream-based dip aren’t exactly a health food. Try using a low-calorie dip (4 tablespoons reduced-calorie dip: 88 calories, 7g fat, 5g carbs, 2g protein) or make your own with nonfat yogurt or mayo. Oh, and just in case you don’t think it matters what you dip with, compare 15 potato chips (150 calories) with 15 baked tortilla chips (81 calories). Why not dump the dip altogether and have some air-popped popcorn (3 cups: 92 calories, 1g fat, 19g carbs, 3g protein) instead?


  • 5 chicken nuggets: 271 calories, 17g fat, 13g carbs, 15g protein
  • 5 cocktail-size pigs in a blanket: 332 calories, 25g fat, 17g carbs, 9g protein

Because the chicken nuggets are fried, I was sure they’d be higher in calories. But the fat in the “pigs” and the dough in the “blankets” more than make up for the breaded-and-fried nuggets. Make grilled chicken breast strips and you’ll save serious calories. Also make sure to use mustard, barbecue sauce or ketchup instead of mayo or other high-calorie condiments.


  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts: 424 calories, 36g fat, 14g carbs, 19g protein
  • 1/2 cup roasted chestnuts: 175 calories, 2g fat, 38g carbs, 2g protein
  • 1/2 cup pistachios in their shells: 164 calories, 13g fat, 8g carbs, 6g protein
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms: 480 calories, 20g fat, 68g carbs, 4g protein

The surprising thing is how similar M&Ms and peanuts are in terms of calories. Yes, nuts are the better choice. They have more protein, which has been shown to make you feel full and more satisfied. Plus, nuts have unsaturated “good” fat, fiber and plenty of other healthy nutrients. But they’re also high in calories, and you can down a cup of nuts in no time. If you plan on eating nuts, try to choose ones still in their shells, like pistachios. They take longer to eat, and it also looks like you’re eating more because the shells take up space. You might want to try roasted chestnuts: They’re big and bulky, low in fat and very flavorful. And if they’re in their shells, it will take you a while to peel them.


  • 1 ounce Snyder’s Honey Mustard and Onion Pieces: 140 calories, 7g fat, 18g carbs, 2g protein
  • 1 ounce Cooler Ranch Doritos: 140 calories, 7g fat, 18g carbs, 2g protein

Neither choice has very much nutritional value. But if you must eat pretzels or Doritos, at least buy single-serving bags rather than the huge family-size. They might cost a little more, but they’ll save you from eating a lot more without thinking.


  • Instead of snacking, eat your regular meals as you watch the game. This is food you’d be eating anyway, and if it’s portion-controlled, you’ll be satisfied without overeating.
  • If you’re going to overeat anyway, try picking foods that are low in calories to compensate. Air-popped popcorn, watermelon, baby carrots or other vegetables without fattening dips let you eat a lot more for a lot fewer calories.
  • Go for a walk at halftime.
  • Don’t serve all the snacks at once. Try putting something new out each quarter — just like the game.
  • Keep the extra food in the kitchen — out of sight, out of mind.
  • Use small plates and bowls to encourage smaller serving sizes.
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