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TCP Kitchen

Sack the Fat, Calories

Game-day snacks don’t have to pack on the pounds

You, there, wearing the Cowboys jersey! Drop that cookie! Back away from the cheese! Keep those wings OUT of the deep fryer.

Watching a football game doesn’t have to be a contact sport for your digestive system or your abdomen. Some fans would argue that eating tasty (and high-calorie) foods before, during and after a game is at least half the fun. I subscribed to that philosophy 50 pounds ago, but as I ease into middle age, with the accompanying battle of the bulge, the subject of my long-term health is beginning to loom larger.

My challenge is to make food that my guests and I can enjoy while leaving out the things that, while delicious, are not so good for me. I’m not giving up my game-day staples, just modifying some of them so they are a little less weighty. I guess instead of Healthy Tailgating, I could think of it as “Healthier” Tailgating.

There are ways to lessen the body blows delivered by traditional tailgate staples. Start with substitutions. Low-fat versions of cream cheese and sour cream, sugar substitutes and reduced-sodium products are all widely available and can be virtually indistinguishable from their fully loaded counterparts when added to a dish. Try replacing fattier cuts of meat—use instead skinless chicken, ground turkey breast and super lean ground beef.

Plan more dishes featuring fruits and vegetables. Add spices, salsa or citrus to punch up flavor without piling on calories. Forgo prepared foods for things you make yourself—that way you know exactly what you are getting. If you use something store-bought, look at the nutrition labels and understand what they mean.

The fight for waistline supremacy can be waged in small steps. You can still enjoy yourself and your food without regretting it later.

One of my favorite game-time foods is a bowl of chili. Here’s a recipe I like that features ground turkey and green chilies that chops the calorie and fat content of a full-blown bowl of Texas red.

White Chili           

1 pound lean ground turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cans (15 ounces each) navy beans
1 can (4 ounces) green chilies
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon white pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a small pot, brown turkey in olive oil. Add beans, chilies, spices and broth, bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Remove a half cup of broth and add cornstarch, stirring until lumps dissolve. Pour back into chili. Serve with chopped green onion and cilantro. Add jalapeño pepper sauce if you desire a spicier dish.

Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 258 calories, 22 g protein, 5 g fat, 31 g carbohydrates, 668 mg sodium, 44 mg cholesterol.

January 2009 Recipe Contest