Healthy Super Bowl food alternatives

Looking to lighten up after the gorge-friendly holiday season? Well, nothing can thwart your progress like the smorgasbord of deli meats, cheesy dips, and deep-fried everything that's lurking just around the corner. That's right folks, we're talking about the Super Bowl. Whether you're hosting at your place or heading over to a friend's house for game day, a few clever tweaks and substitutions in the kitchen will allow you to offer up some tantalizing choices that won't force you to wear that XXL football jersey for the rest of the year.

Chicken wings

Wings are iconic football food and are sure to grace the buffet table at most Super Bowl soirees. A classic buffalo wing recipe deep fries chicken wingettes and then smothers them in butter and hot sauce. Tasty, for sure, but did you know you could skip part of this process and still serve dynamite wings? Try roasting the wings instead. Lay them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Then prepare them as you like. I love a classic lemon pepper wing: toss the roasted wings in butter, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon pepper seasoning, and serve. For a sticky but delicious combo, coat the wings with balsamic vinegar and soy, like they did over at Gourmet.

Buffalo chicken dip

The gang at Huffington Post was curious which Super Bowl recipe folks want the most, so they asked Google what the most searched for game day recipes were in 2016. Wanna take a guess? It turns out that buffalo chicken dip is the dish most folks want to stuff their faces with on Super Bowl Sunday. The standard recipe calls for full-fat cream cheese, lots of cheddar, blue cheese, and sometimes even sour cream thrown in along with cubed or shredded chicken meat and hot sauce. Want a lighter version? Try this one at Skinnytaste that uses reduced fat and nonfat ingredients while still delivering a ton of flavor. Artichoke dip, another popular and cheesy classic, gets the vegan makeover at Forks Over Knives. The dip is thickened with pureed white beans and seasoned with lemon juice, mustard, and nutritional yeast.

Guacamole

This just in: guacamole is good for you! Loaded with potassium and healthy fats, avocados are one of the healthiest parts of a game day feast, whether it's the Super Bowl or not. Skip the store-bought kind loaded with its fillers, preservatives, and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Make yourself a homemade batch using the classic combo of mashed ripe avocados, chopped tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and some fresh lime juice. (Helpful hint: Goya adobo seasoning is the secret ingredient for a perfect guacamole!)

Want to jazz up your guacamole experience even more? Pineapple and guacamole are a match made in heaven, as shown here at Better Homes and Gardens, where they throw in some black beans for good measure. High schooler and food blogger Erica grills her avocado first before mixing it with Parmesan and basil. Cat at The Rustic Willow promises we will swoon for her banana guacamole with cashews, inspired by a dish at her favorite restaurant.

Meatballs

Meatballs are another game day standby that most folks will expect to see on a Super Bowl spread. And since meatballs keep brilliantly in a crockpot or chafing dish, why not offer a couple different options to tantalize everyone's taste buds? No matter which meatball recipes you're aching to try, there are a few meatball cooking tricks that will healthify even the most sinful of meatball recipes.

First of all, bake them, don't fry them. Second, find substitutions for plain old white bread or breadcrumbs (oats, brown rice, and even quinoa can work.) Lastly, use the best quality ground meats you can find, or even go for a veggie "mock" meatball that's packed with flavor.

Try this Mashed original recipe for chicken meatballs with a soy glaze. Lacey at A Sweet Pea Chef wisely chose almond meal in place of bread for her chicken meatballs. At Naturally Ella, lentil meatballs are given the Super Bowl treatment for a spicy buffalo lentil meatball that can stand well alone or atop a slider bun. Elise at Frugal Farm Wife makes her meatballs gluten free with the addition of oats and rice flour.

Potato skins

If you adore the idea of cheese-loaded carbs (read: if you're human), then nothing quite fits the bill like loaded potato skins. The classic recipe calls for white potatoes that are halved, scooped, and deep-fried before being filled with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Mouthwatering? Yes. But not terribly easy on the waistline. If you're aching for a potato skin that offers more in the way of nutrition, consider making your potato skins with fiber- and nutrient-packed sweet potatoes.

Sally goes classic with her sweet potato skins and uses a technique similar to a twice-baked potato to achieve those elusive crispy skins. At the Food Network Kitchen, they bake their sweet potato skins with part-skim mozzarella cheese and top them with avocado and salsa verde. Kara Lydon makes a vegan version using black beans and cashew cheese topped with dollops of vegan sour cream.

Chicken fingers

Fried chicken in all its incarnations is yet another game day staple, and easy to grab-and-dunk chicken fingers and nuggets are an obvious choice for a Super Bowl buffet. Luckily, fried chicken is a pretty simple dish to give a healthy boost to.

There are many variations for preparing your chicken beyond the classic breadcrumb or flour coating. Anne at Fannetastic Food dredges her chicken tenders in egg and mustard before coating them in crushed corn flakes and spices for healthier, gluten-free chicken fingers baked in the oven. At Wellness Mama, the tenders are dunked in almond meal and lightly pan-fried in heart-healthy coconut oil. Skinny Chef Jennifer Iserloh marinates her chicken in low-fat buttermilk and coats it with a homemade breadcrumb mixture of whole wheat bread, spices, and Parmesan cheese.

Pulled meats

Looking for even more ways for your crockpot to give you a hand on Super Bowl Sunday? Well, it turns out that a slow cooker is the ideal place to make a large batch of the pulled meat of your choice. (It can also be done in the oven.) Added bonus? Pulled pork, chicken, or beef is a make-ahead dream and is surprisingly healthier than you may think. Allow guests to serve themselves with rolls or cornbread or ladled into bowls with fixin's like homemade coleslaw.

Christal at Nutritionist in the Kitch makes a super-simple pulled chicken in her crockpot, using chicken breasts, spices, and canned tomatoes, which she tops off with fresh avocado and lime juice. Skinny Ms. shares a recipe from Amy's Cooking Adventures for a slow cooker Mexican shredded beef that is seasoned with cumin and jalapeno. Over at Muscle and Fitness, we see how easy it is to make a pulled pork that is delicious and low-carb. Not even bison gets left out of the pulled meat party — an easy paleo version is available over at Civilized Caveman Cooking.

Chilis and stews

There's nothing quite like a hot homemade chili or stew to warm you up on a chilly game day. Chilis and stews are also dynamite party foods that can readily be served from a crockpot or large soup pot left simmering on the stovetop.

At Once Upon a Chef, Jenn Segal whips up a delicious white chicken chili that uses jalapeno, poblano, and ancho chilies for a memorable kick. Erin at Well Plated employs her slow cooker for an awesome turkey and quinoa chili with sweet potatoes and black beans — her not-so-secret ingredient is a bottle of her favorite local craft beer. For a vegetarian treat, try a classic Italian giambotta (vegetable stew) like the one at My Husband Hates Veggies.

Football-themed fruit and veggie displays

Ask anyone with kids — healthy eating can be all about presentation. And what better way to present healthy-for-the-bod fruits and veggies than in a football-themed display? Grab yourself a sharp knife, a melon baller, and a watermelon, and check out the easy tutorial above to make a watermelon football helmet. Fill it up with easily scooped-up balls of your favorite fruit. For a decadent addition, surround your creation with these chocolate strawberry footballs from Domestic Fits.

The kiddos can even help with this touchdown-worthy veggie tray at Creative Kids. Celery sticks and string cheese make a convincing football field with carrot and bell pepper "fans" in the stadium to cheer them on. If you have a little more spare time on your hands, check out this "snackadium" from 52 Kitchen Adventures with just the right amount of healthy to last you until the very final commercial.

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