When the Taco Bell advertising team came up with the idea to bash veggie platters at Super Bowl parties, they weren't just knocking vegetables. The ad implied that all healthy snack food ideas are unwelcomed at the biggest gridiron event of the year. Now that the ads have been pulled, it has left many people wondering whether any diet snacks can be safely served on game day.
Do not despair! There are other ways to curb your party food consumption without trying to sneak broccoli into the chili con carne!
Beware of Halos
One of the biggest mistakes we can make when faced with lots of food choices is to separate the choices into "good" and "bad" foods. No matter what criteria we use to make the distinction, it always leads to the same illogical conclusion that if we eat mostly good food, it's okay to eat some bad food, too.
This is called the Halo Effect, where we believe the good food – they're the ones wearing the halo – can somehow magically cancel out the risks of the bad foods.
Mathematically, this just doesn't work out in our favor. The amount of fat, sodium and calories in 20 potato chips submerged in a half cup of onion dip cannot be cancelled out by a 20 baby carrots dabbed in hummus. Same is true about eating the celery sticks served with the Buffalo wings. The numbers just don't jibe.
This does not mean we can never eat the chips, dips and wings. We just have to be more realistic about how many we can afford to add to our fat, sodium and calorie tally for the day.
"Watch" What You Eat
As much as we all feel drawn to food by its smell and taste, our vision plays a role in what and how much we eat, too. I'm not talking about attractive plating arrangements, but the color and size of the plates and bowls it's served in. Food marketers use this information to get us to eat more of their products, but we turn the tables on them and use it to eat less.
A study done in the Department of Social and Economic Psychology at the University of Basel Switzerland found people ate less snack food from a red plate and drank less soft drink from a red cup than they did when blue or white plates and cups were used. The researchers hypothesize that the color red serves as a subliminal stop sign that helps to reduce how much we eat.
That's good news for San Francisco 49er's fans who can use the team's red and gold colors for their party ware.
Tackle the "Hidden Persuaders"
Even if there won't be any diet snacks at your Super Bowl spread, there are ways to deal with mindless eating so you don't overindulge. Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Brain Wansink, a consumer behavior psychologist, we now have proof that how we serve food is as important as what we serve.
Use these Healthy Snack Food Ideas to Eat Less at Your Super Bowl Party
- Use tall slender glasses for drinks instead of short wide ones
- Fill a basket with single-serving bags of chips instead of having big bowls filled with opened chips
- Offer only 1 or 2 types of chips instead of 3 or more
- Place some of the snack food just out of reach so guests have to get up to have more
- Provide small plates for guests to fill with their own snacks and place scoops and tongs on platters so they can serve themselves
- Offer snacks that require some effort to eat, such as peanuts or pistachios in shells, cheese you must spread, and candies you must unwrap
- Fill candy dishes with single-colored treats, like M&Ms or Jellybeans, featuring your team's colors rather than offering mixed colors
- Provide medium-sized (9 inch) paper plates for the half-time buffet instead of larger dinner plates
- Put plain names on your buffet dishes, such as "Chili," versus more appetizing descriptions, such as "Rosie's Three-Alarm Homemade Chili"