Almost everyone has Feb. 7 circled on the calendar. It’s Super Bowl Sunday – often the most-watched American television broadcast of the year and among the most watched sporting events worldwide.
Even if you’re not a football fan or your team’s not in the “Big Game,” you still may host or attend a Super Bowl party at home. For several hours on Sunday, you’ll be among family, friends and colleagues to catch the pre-game, the game, the commercials, the halftime show, more of the game – even the post-game.
The setting is apt for a lot of eating, drinking and inactivity, which makes proper food preparation and moderation of food and alcohol consumption important. Burn off extra calories by standing instead of sitting, and prepare yourself physically if playing football outdoors. Also be aware of the warning signs for heart attack or stroke.
To make your Super Bowl party a touchdown, here are some health tips from UC San Francisco:
The Super Bowl is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption after Thanksgiving Day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). All that food brings with it the possibility of foodborne illness and food poisoning. Preparation of dishes is key, said Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Nursing.
“There is no way to eyeball if a food, in particular a meat, is ‘done.’,” Ferraro said. “The only way to know if you’re really achieving the recommended USDA internal cooking temperatures is to use a food thermometer.”
Internal temperatures should be at least 165°F for poultry; 160°F for burgers and other ground meats; and 145°F for whole cuts of beef, veal and lamb. Be sure to check different parts of the meat to ensure cooking throughout.
When it comes to eating, the typical Super Bowl viewer’s intake will be 2,400 calories, according to the Calorie Control Council, compared to the average 1,500 calories recommended daily.
A popular item is chips, with Americans eating more than 11 million pounds on game day. Choose chips with three grams of fiber and three grams of protein, Ferraro said. Chips with 100 percent whole grain or sprouted grain help increase nutrient absorption.
Just as popular are chicken wings, and the National Chicken Council estimates Americans will devour more than a billion wings on Super Bowl Sunday. Ferraro recommends tossing the wings in healthier sauces like sriracha chili ketchup to provide a spicy kick without the calories. Another option is to replace dark meat with chicken breast bites in a zesty chili sauce.
As the fourth quarter arrives, round out the party with sweet treats low on sugar, Ferraro said. Put out bite-size desserts low in sugar but loaded with fiber.
For leftovers, keep for just a few days and reheat to at least 165°F, Ferraro advised. A good rule of thumb is three to four days in the refrigerator, three to four months in the freezer.
“When cooling large batches of food, if you put it all in the refrigerator at once, it could bring the refrigerator temperature up and put everything else at risk for foodborne illness,” Ferraro said. “Instead, break the food into smaller batches and cool slightly before refrigerating.”
Just like food, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest days for alcohol consumption. Its effects vary from person to person based on various factors, including how much and how often you drink, age, health status and family history.
Alcohol enters the bloodstream as soon as the first sip. The more you consume, the more impaired you become.
According to Ferraro, a good way to keep alcohol intake under control on game day is to intersperse non-alcoholic drinks with alcoholic ones.
“Pace yourself, keeping in mind that the Super Bowl is almost four hours long and that your body can metabolize about one drink per hour,” Ferraro said. “Don’t outpace your body’s ability to clear alcohol from your system.”
Drinking even a small amount of alcohol increases the chances of having an accident while driving, as your judgment and senses are weakened. It’s best to have a designated driver or other safe ride home.
Standing vs. Sitting
Instead of being a couch potato by sitting during the game, stand, as it burns significantly more calories.
“If a person weighing about 140 pounds were to stand rather than sit during the average length of a Super Bowl party, he or she could burn an extra 120 calories,” said Nisha Parikh, MD, assistant professor of cardiology at UCSF. “At 180 pounds, that person would burn 150 more calories standing compared to sitting.”
Even just standing for the 90 minutes tallied during commercial breaks and halftime would have benefits.
“Depending on your body weight, you could burn between 50-70 extra calories over that period of time,” Parikh said.
Many of us imagine we’re in the Super Bowl ourselves – throwing the pass or making the catch that wins the game. If you take those thoughts outside, put as much detail into ensuring your physical well-being as you did in planning the party, said Nirav Pandya, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at UCSF.
First and foremost, make a frank assessment of your current athletic condition and if you’ve participated recently in any athletic activities, such as football.
“Going to the gym and walking on a treadmill is one thing, but participating in explosive activities that involve cutting and pivoting can lead to Achilles tendon ruptures, ligament injuries and sprained ankles,” Pandya said. “Make sure you recognize your level of fitness and try not to exceed it.”
Warm up for 10-15 minutes before playing, and wear warm clothes to keep your muscles warm. Stop if you feel any discomfort, and do not participate if you’ve had an excessive amount to eat or drink, Pandya advised.
“Unless you have a full set of football gear stowed away, avoid tackling, as it’s a great way to have a loved one end up in the emergency room with a broken wrist or ankle,” Pandya said. “Also, make sure someone carefully watches the young ones. Many children will break an elbow or wrist playing unsupervised while the adults are busy watching the game.”
Heart Attack and Stroke
While no convincing studies have been published showing that watching sporting events such as the Super Bowl are associated with increased heart attack risk, studies have shown large amounts of anger and stress can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
If you develop chest pain or shortness of breath during the game, call 9-1-1 immediately. For a stroke, remember “FAST” – Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call emergency response.
UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises two top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.