bigA month or two before spring fever strikes, we all become susceptible to football fever. It can make you just as giddy, especially if your team is headed to Dallas this year. But the snacks we take to “cure” this fever have a decidedly unsportsmanlike side effect: They pile on the calories, and usually the worst kind: salty, sugary, and empty, made up of processed gunk.

Whether your team makes it to Super Bowl XLV, the goal is to score some seriously tasty touchdowns to kick off your Super Bowl party—without having a bunch of excess poundage landing in your end zone. Here are 10 no-fumble tips for a healthy defense when you tackle that Super Bowl snack tray:

1) Substitution: Ooey gooey cheese has become the gold standard for Game Day. And that’s OK: This day is about fun. So wow them at the line of snack scrimmage with a layered dip made mostly of pureed pinto beans, fresh garlic, and clear chicken broth (vs. lard-laden, high-calorie store-bought bean dip) with just a little bit of gooey melted cheese on top.

2) Sack the sack: Processed chips are alright for the occasional nibble, but they tend to be high in thirst-generating salt and craving inducers such as garlic, onion powder, or MSG—and often all three. Make your own chips by cutting white corn tortillas (typically made of just corn and water), sprinkling them with cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and a seasalt, and bake until lightly browned.

3) Lateral pass: Substitute air-popped popcorn cup for cup for packaged or microwaved popcorn. Air poppers are inexpensive, make popcorn faster than a microwave can, and are available at most discount stores. The corn pops nice and crunchy and has only about 30 calories per cup—about 25% less than even the light microwaveable versions. For more zing, shake the popcorn in a bag with your own mix of spices.

4) Two-point pizza conversion. Sure you can call for delivery or go the frozen route. How about a better play? Cut calories for this classic snack down to size with pizza bites made on whole wheat pita rounds with tomato slices instead of sauce and smaller amounts of aged, full-flavored cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano.

5) Wingback interception: It’s not a Super Bowl party without wings. But you can get a full lineup of flavor without greasy breading by marinating your wings overnight in Tabasco sauce and dusting them with cornmeal before baking on a rack. Then, skip the ranch dressing dipper and opt for a simple squeeze of fresh lemon with a dusting of minced parsley.

6) Ingredient interference: You’ll get tackled hard if you try to serve carrot and celery sticks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get healthier ingredients into the huddle. Snacks such as deviled eggs provide easily digestible protein that boosts satiety and, if you make the filling with a dab of yogurt instead of mayo, can be low on calories. Cucumber boats and stuffed tomatoes get veggies on the field without the drop of a penalty flag. And a corn, black bean, and avocado salad with jalapenos and cilantro makes a healthy dish with bold flavor. Stick it in a football-shaped bowl and who could complain?

7) Quarterback salsa sneak: Jarred salsa seems like a healthier alternative to a creamy dip, but a careful look at the labels of many salsas shows the hidden excesses in the form of sugar calories and thirst-inducing sodium. It’s easy to make your own: Toss three ripe tomatoes, two to three Serrano peppers, two tomatillos, the juice of a fresh lime, and a handful of cilantro leaves into a food processor and pulse for 15 seconds, and you have a fresh salsa with no sugar or additives but lots of flavor.

8) Place kicker: For dressing based dips, substituting yogurt or blended cottage cheese gives you all the creaminess and body but fewer calories. In addition to blending in chopped fresh herbs and favorite spices, add a flavorful immune-boosting ingredient such as roasted red peppers. A pinch each of salt and pepper will round out the flavor without adding unwanted calories.

9) Shirts and skins: Potato skins are another favorite halftime snack that can add full-time calories. But you can make them work for you by keeping more potato in the skins and using purple potatoes for an anthocyanin boost. Halve large cooked (but firm) purple potatoes lengthwise and then, using a melon baller, dig a small trench in each half. Mince and mix the insides with chopped vegetarian sausage, herbs, and just a little grated cheese before spooning into the potato skins and finishing in the oven.

10) Bench your reserve players: Instead of putting the snacks on the cocktail table in front of the big screen, put them out of sight behind the viewing area or even buffet style in the kitchen. Even though out of sight isn’t completely out of mind, the farther snacks are from arm’s reach, the less you and your
guests will eat.