Super Bowl Sunday is one of the great American traditions comprised entirely of a football game, a highly-anticipated superstar halftime show, and multi-million dollar commercials watched by over 100 million people each year. Whether you’re tailgating the pregame in the parking lot, cramming into a bar, or sitting on your couch this year, one societal normal stands stubbornly true: copious amounts of food and alcohol.  

The game lasts for four hours, and researchers from Cornell University tracked grocery purchases and found the average American will eat more than 6,000 calories by the end of the day. (You’d need to run a marathon to burn off all of those calories off — that’s 26.2 miles.) Researchers looked at all of the spending habits for 200 households in a seven-month period, added up each serving size, calories for each person, and published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE. They wanted to figure out by purchasing trends when people start giving up on their New Year's Resolution, and instead they stumbled across the startlingly high number of calories football fans consume on game day. 

"The higher number represents the fact that the household was buying foods that give more calories each time they eat a recommended serving," the study’s coauthor David Just, a professor of Behavioral Economics, told The Washington Post. "This means people buy the highest calorie foods around the Super Bowl."

The quantity of calories consumed on Super Bowl Sunday even beats out Thanksgiving, which is a holiday completely dedicated to giving thanks and eating until the infamous turkey food coma drop kicks you onto the couch. There’s always a football game on Thanksgiving, too, which begs the question: Does football make us hungry? Probably not. Instead, it’s the deeply ingrained and often overlooked rituals that cause humans to consume many more calories than they need.

Will one day of hot wings, cheese fries, and ranch dip ruin you for the rest of the year? If you eat relatively healthy and exercise regularly, there’s a low likelihood of nachos giving you a coronary at halftime. However, consuming high-fat and high-sodium foods will lead to temporary increases in blood pressure and flood your blood stream with artery clogging lipids. 

As far as beer is concerned, one light beer is about 150 calories, so drink wisely. Women who have more than four drinks are in binge-drinking territory, and for men five’s the limit. Having a wine color could mean a sugar overload, and shots at the bar could end badly, and by the time you’ve drank enough to lower your inhibitions you’ve already forgotten everything this article said and are ordering cheese fries at midnight.

Super Bowl Sunday Calories The food you eat on Super Bowl Sunday will be enough for three days' worth of calories. Photo courtesy of Washington Post

10 Healthy Touchdown-Worthy Snacks

  1. Guacamole: A half an avocado counts as one serving of healthy fats. Dip your chips or veggies until you hit around that portion size. Blend with a Greek yogurt, salsa, a dash of garlic powder, and squeeze of lime.
  2. Baked Buffalo Wings: One typical fried wing with dressing will cost you 125 calories. Drop the fat content by boiling the wings before baking them. The protein will fill you up and taste delicious with extra hot sauce served with a side of fresh carrot and celery sticks.
  3. Veggie Tray: One cup of veggies is filling and usually under 50 calories, compared to a handful of potato chips, which can stack up to 200 calories. Slice up some carrots, celery, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers, and line them up in a colorful array.
  4. Skinny Dips: Bring a healthy, low-calorie with your veggie tray, such as black bean dip for protein and fiber, or a 35-calorie per dollop hummus option.
  5. Salad Pizza: A whole wheat crust is the foundation for creativity when it comes to making a pizza. The potential to keep it healthy is endless, such as a fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella with balsamic or a chop salad tossed onto the crust with a light vinaigrette dressing. Meanwhile, two regular slices of pizza could put you at 600 in calorie debt.
  6. Quality Chips: Put the fried potato chips and cheese doodles down! Now go pick up a baked tortilla chip with a lentil or bean base with high fiber. Empty carbohydrates leave you feeling hungry and reaching for more munchies, but a high fiber snack will keep you fuller longer.
  7. Zucchini and Sweet Potato Fries: Great sources of vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. Slice vertically and toss in an egg white wash. Dip them into panko crumbs and baked at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. Toss some spices into the panko to mix it up.
  8. Shrimp Skewers: It’s an easy and delicious dish, but beware not to cross contaminate platters if a guest has a shellfish allergy. Shrimp have a high concentration of antioxidants known to reduce inflammation and pack in 1 gram of protein per shrimp.
  9. Fresh Fruit with Yogurt Dip: Ignore the saturated fat baked goods spread out on the table and treat your sweet tooth to some fresh fruit. It’s customizable, and it’s easy to make an attractive presentation with the colors. Swirl some yogurt or cinnamon into the yogurt to give it a contrast of flavor.
  10. Spicy Popcorn: Choose a low-fat, low-sodium variety of popcorn if you’re going prepackaged. If not, make it yourself from kernels and toss some paprika, cheeses, chili powder, and other mouthwatering spices into a bag and shake it around. Popcorn is one of the whole grains and aids in digestion.