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Game Day Foods

Mindful Eating During Game Day

For the last installment of our game-day series, I wanted to highlight a secret threat to mindful eating during game day celebrations – calories, calories, calories!

TV Leads to More Calories Consumed

Adults have been shown to consume more calories simply because of a television program still running.  The distraction of the television leads to consumers eating for longer duration of time whereas they may have stopped earlier if no distractions were present.

In a survey with obese adults, they reportedly stopped eating simply because the program was finished, not because of their hunger being satisfied. Similarly, in a study done on popcorn consumption in a movie theater, those who were more locked into the movie consequently ate more popcorn. We are just as at risk for distracted eating while watching an interesting football game, so be weary of how much you have had to eat!

Also, eating while watching a program or sporting event can desensitize the ability to detect our hunger/fullness cues. With our attention focused elsewhere, we are less likely to notice if we are truly enjoying a food or if we don’t think it tastes that great. If a food doesn’t taste all that great, it is less likely we’re going to eat it. However, if distractions are causing you to not notice how it tastes, the food will get eaten anyway.

Just Seeing Food Can Lead to Overeating

We typically eat food just because we can see it. In a study done in 2004 with secretaries, candy was consumed 46% more often when it was stored in a clear jar rather than an opaque jar. In another study, sandwiches wrapped in clear wrap were more often eaten than those wrapped in nontransparent wrap. What these studies imply is that just because there is food visibly in front of us, we are more likely to eat it whether we are hungry for it or not!

How Many Calories Are in Your Doritos?

Consider a bag of Doritos which is often around at a game-watching party or a tailgate: 11 chips provides 150 calories, 17g of simple carbohydrates, and 180 mg of sodium. Now, this doesn’t sound too bad. However, have you ever had a bag of Doritos in front of you and ate only 11 chips? Not only is it rare to only eat 11 chips, football is distracting and the food is front of your eyes for game lasting 4 or more hours—you’re likely to eat closer to 30 chips (or more!) which would triple the amount of calories, sodium, and simple carbohydrates consumed (450 calories, 50 g carbohydrates, and 540 mg sodium)!

5 Strategies for Mindful Eating

Here are 5 practical ways to use mindful eating to prevent over-consumption during game day:

  1. Fuel Up With Well-Balanced Breakfast or Lunch

Prior to the game starting, make sure you have had well-balanced, nutrient-dense meals or snacks that are rich in fiber earlier in the day.  This will prevent you from arriving starving and reaching for energy-dense foods.

  1. Choose Healthy Snacks First

Choose low-calorie foods first to munch on (vegetables, fruit, chips and hummus, etc).  Filling your stomach with foods high in nutrients and low in calories will help to prevent having a lot of high calorie foods.  Save the high calorie foods (nachos, desserts, candy, etc) for later when you’ve really thought about if you truly want it!

  1. Take Time to Assess Your Food

Take the time to decide if you really like something after tasting it.  If you don’t, stop eating it!  Start with serving yourself small amounts of the food offered so less food is wasted if you decide you don’t like it.

  1. Ask if You are Really Hungry

Take a moment periodically throughout the day to assess where your hunger is at on a scale from 1 to 10.  If you start to get in the 6-8 range, grab a (healthy) snack.  If you’re in the 1-5 range, wait!

  1. Don’t Hang Out in the Kitchen

Remember the study of the secretaries and the jars? With this in mind, we are more likely to graze on food if we are in the kitchen where it is typically set out.  Try not to spend extended periods of time in the kitchen (unless you are genuinely hungry!) in order to cut back on unnecessary calories.

Overall, by paying attention to the food you are putting into your body you can keep your calorie intake at a healthy level. For more ideas on healthy game day foods and other recipes, visit our CHI Health's Nutrition Blog.


Wansink  B.  Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers.  Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:455-479.

CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team
CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team

These blogs are written by members of the CHI Health Nutrition Services team.

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