Game Day Party: Healthy Recipes & Drinks for Sports Season

Reviewed on 6/21/2016


Game day food and football on TV.

We are a nation of sports fans. We love our football, hockey, baseball, and basketball. With the women's World Cup win, even soccer is gaining traction in the U.S. Whether it's the pros or college games we can't get enough. The 2015 Super Bowl broke ratings records, attracting nearly 121 million viewers at one point!

We also love to get together with friends or tailgate to watch the big game, which usually includes a lot of junk food and alcohol. It's not good for our waistlines, or our overall health. Follow this slide show to learn about some ways to enjoy the game and snack healthfully, plus some tasty recipes to try at your next game day!

Game Time Calorie Stats

A man carries a tray of food down to his seat at the baseball park.

The average man needs about 2,000 calories daily to maintain his current weight; a woman needs about 1,600. The typical foods eaten while watching games are pizza, beer, chips and dip, nachos, and wings. According to the USDA's national nutrient database, here's how a few of the typical favorites stack up:

  • 2 cans of regular beer: 306 calories
  • 2 cans regular cola: 310 calories
  • 1 slice pepperoni pizza: 261 calories
  • 6 chicken wings: 690 calories
  • 1 serving of nachos with cheese: 346 calories
  • 2 servings potato chips: 298 calories
  • 2 brownies: 454 calories

Snack on those and you could end up exceeding your total daily calorie needs in just a few hours!

Mindless Snacking While You Watch

A man mindlessly snacking while watching sports.

It turns out you might actually eat more while watching a sports game than watching other types of TV programs. A 2014 study from Cornell University found that the more distracting a program, the more you eat. This can apply to action movies or thrillers as well as a football game that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Sports are fast-paced, there are lots of camera cuts to different parts of the action, and it draws you in – distracting you from what you're eating. You pay less attention to what you put in your mouth because you're directing all your focus onto the big game.

Watch Your Portions

An illustration of correct portion sizes.

Be mindful of what you eat so you don't overeat. Know what a proper portion size is and measure that out before eating a particular food. Remember these portion size equations:

  • 3 o.z. meat = Deck of cards
  • 1 cup = Baseball
  • Slice of pizza = 2 dollar bills
  • Baked potato = Computer mouse

Also, plan your snacks ahead of time. Instead of bringing out the whole bag of chips or box of cookies, pre-portion them into single servings. Better yet, serve healthy snacks such as veggies with hummus, air-popped popcorn, or salads.

Friendly Contests Can Get You Moving

A mustang horse mascot doing push-ups on the basketball court.

While you're watching your favorite team on TV, you can also stay active. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests standing up and moving during every commercial break.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) goes one step further: having a competition with your friends. If your team gets a first down, your friends cheering for the other team have to do 10 push-ups – and vice versa. You can create challenges for any type of play foul ball means you do 10 jumping jacks. Your team goes on the power play, your buddies on the other side have to do crunches. Free throw? How about some lunges?

You can also take a short walk during half time or between periods.

Lean, Mean Grilling Machines

A group of tailgaters serve up hot dogs.

It's much easier to eat healthy snacks during the game when you have them on hand. If you're hosting a game day party, serve snacks and beverages that are low in fat and calories. Veggies and low fat dips or hummus are crunchy, easy snacks, as are apple slices with peanut butter or fruit skewers.

Many alcoholic beverages are high in calories, and some mixed drinks are high in sugar. Look for light beer or wine spritzers, and also as an alternative to alcohol consider serving water with lemon, or unsweetened iced tea.

For the main menu, look for lean meat patties such as ground turkey or even veggie burgers. Serve on whole-wheat buns. Skinless chicken breast strips are a better choice than fried Buffalo wings. Use a wing sauce or BBQ sauce as a dip. Consider serving a healthy veggie chili as a side dish – it's low in fat and beans have lots of fiber and protein.

Smart Eating Strategies

A group of friends watching sports.

There are a lot of little things you can do to eat smart even if you aren't at home while watching the game:

  • Serve yourself food on a smaller plate; you will eat less.
  • Choose mustard over mayo and save on calories and fat.
  • Skip the cheese.
  • Add lots of healthy toppings to your burger including lettuce and tomato.
  • Limit alcohol intake, and alternate beer and water (for every glass of beer you have, have one glass of water).
  • Simply stay away from the food and drinks. Focus your energy on the game and cheer for your team or chat with your friends.

Beer and the Other Game Day Beverages

An info graphic on how to measure alcohol in a red solo cup.

Alcohol is a big part of game day for a lot of people. Just remember: everything in moderation. In addition to being packed with calories, alcohol can impair your judgment and cause you to eat more. An average can of beer (12 ounces) is 153 calories and 13.9 grams of alcohol. Light beer is only slightly less: 103 calories and 11 grams of alcohol. If you do drink, the American Heart Association recommends limiting alcoholic beverages to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women.

In the non-alcoholic category, steer clear of sugary sodas. Just one 12 ounce can of regular soda contains 155 calories and about 37 grams of sugar – that's more than 9 teaspoons! Water is always the healthiest option but you could also serve it with some lemon, or try unsweetened iced tea for a flavorful beverage.

Healthy Game Day Recipes

Game day recipes.

Get ready to celebrate with friends during this year’s biggest sporting events. Try out these quick and easy recipes!

Football in a Blanket Bites

Football in a blanket recipe.
Step 1

Preheat oven to 375°F. Unroll refrigerated roll dough; separate into eight triangles. Cut each triangle in half to make two triangles. Cut each hot dog into three pieces, about 2 inches each (depending on the length of the hot dog).

Step 2

Place each hot dog piece in the center of one of the small triangles of dough and wrap the dough around the hot dog. Place on nonstick baking sheet. Repeat with remaining crescent dough and turkey franks.

Step 3

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Serve these with ketchup, mustard, or even BBQ sauce.

Home Run Spinach Dip

Spinach dip in a bread bowl recipe.
Step 1

In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, leek soup mix, jicama, and chopped spinach. Chill in the refrigerator 6 hours or overnight.

Step 2

Remove top and interior of sourdough bread round, making a bowl. Fill with spinach mixture. Cut the carved-out bread top into bite-sized cubes for dipping. Serve the spinach dip-filled bread bowl with the bread cubes.

Hint: Try it heated by throwing it in the oven, and substitute light mayonnaise for even less calories

Spicy Game Day Popcorn

Spicy pop corn recipe.
Step 1

In a large bowl, combine the popcorn, nuts (if using), and shredded cheese.

Step 2

Melt the butter in a microwave, add the spices, and stir well. Pour the butter-spice mixture over the popcorn and toss.

Ballpark Buffalo Wings

Buffalo wings recipe.
Step 1

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the seasoned salt, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, and flour. Remove and discard the skin from the wings (if you weren't able to find skinless drumettes). Dip each wing into the seasoning mixture, pressing the mixture onto the chicken to coat well.

Step 2

Generously coat a large nonstick skillet with canola cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. Add the chicken wings (cooking in batches if necessary) and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the bottoms are browned. Flip with prongs and cook for about 4 minutes more.

Step 3

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the beer. Cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes. If the wings aren't cooked through, turn them over and cook for a few minutes more. Remove from the heat and serve hot with light blue cheese dressing if desired (not included in nutrition information below).

Power Play Pizza Bagels

Pizza bagels recipe.
Step 1

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly-roll pan with foil if desired. Place bagel halves on the lined pan.

Step 2

In medium bowl combine the chicken, barbecue sauce, red onions, fresh cilantro, tossing to blend well. Top each bagel half with 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture, then sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese over each half. Spoon 1/8 cup of the diced canned tomatoes on top of each bagel half.

Step 3

Bake in center of oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and the bagel is nice and hot. Cut each bagel half in half or serve as is!

Hint: Replace chicken with reduced-sodium pepperoni or ham for a different take on traditional pizza

Touch Down Beef & Beer Chili

Beer cheese chili recipe.


  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 pound beef top round (such as London broil), trimmed of fat and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced or chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano flakes
  • 14 1/2 ounce can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes (or similar)
  • 1 cup light or non-alcoholic beer (beef broth or water can be substituted)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped chili pepper (jalapeno chili, halved and seeded (optional)
  • 15 ounce can low-sodium kidney beans (or pinto beans), drained and rinsed
  • Finely minced onion for serving (optional)
  • Grated reduced-fat sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (optional)

Lean & Mean Bronco Burgers

Bronco burger recipe.
Step 1

Preheat grill (indoor or outdoor) for high heat. Add Ortega peppers, ground sirloin, black pepper, BBQ sauce, onion, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder to a large bowl. Use your hands or a dinner fork to mix it all together well.

Step 2

Divide beef mixture into 4 balls, then flatten into patties (about 3/4-inch thick). Grill or pan-fry burgers for about 4-5 minutes per side or until done to your liking. If pan-frying, use a nonstick frying pan or skillet and coat both sides of the burger lightly with canola cooking spray.

Step 3

Remove burgers from the grill or frying pan to serving plate and top immediately with desired cheese. Place buns on grill or in toaster oven to toast, if desired. Assemble burger by adding the cheese topped burgers to the toasted buns.

Courtside Chocolate Kahlua Crock Pot Cake

Chocolate kahlua cake.
Step 1

Coat the inside of the slow cooker dish with canola cooking spray.

Step 2

In large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, sour cream, milk, eggs, egg whites, and kahlua by beating on medium for about a minute.

Step 3

Pour cake batter into prepared slow cooker dish. Cover slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. Cut cake into about 16 wedges and using a cookie dough scoop, serve each slice with a small scoop of light vanilla bean ice cream if desired.

Find More Healthy Recipes

An array of game day party snacks.

If you enjoyed the recipes included in this slideshow, visit the MedicineNet Recipes page for more healthy food ideas.

Game Day Party: Healthy Recipes & Drinks for Sports Season

Sources: Sources

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information: Disclaimer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors