Game Day Game Plan: Smart Super Bowl Eating With Andrew Zimmern

Americans love football. There's something in our DNA that gears us toward triple-fisting a beer, a chicken wing, and the clicker, oftentimes flipping between multiple games at once. Celebrity chefs are no exception to this rule. Sometimes, however, Super Bowl food and drink options leave us feeling bloated, sick, and sad. There are ways around post-game day food-related depression, though, and we chatted with chef and the Food Network's All Star Academy host Andrew Zimmern to see his take on food, football, and healthy eating strategies specifically in regards to Super Bowl 50.

It's no secret that Zimmern, experienced chef, food writer, television personality, and two-time recipient of the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Personality/Host award, knows his stuff when it comes to food. His notoriety as a chef paired with his penchant for experiencing every adventurous and exotic food has rendered him an authority on all things edible. On his Travel Channel series, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Zimmern has tasted everything from bamboo rat to fermented sheep's head. It goes without saying, though, that the foods Andrew Zimmern chooses to eat and prepare at home aren't quite as outré. In fact, his standard Super Bowl spread is incredibly drool-worthy.

"For me, the Super Bowl is a time to celebrate with family, friends, and fun foods that you only make on certain days of the year," Zimmern says. In terms of what he likes to make for the big game, Zimmern says that he likes to feature something hearty that can be eaten with a spoon. And, with the frigid climate in his home state of Minnesota, it only makes sense. This dish, warmed by his fireplace, can be anything from oyster chowder to chili or Colombian black bean and pork stew.

"I like to use the fire as a central place," Zimmern says. "We can use that area to keep food warm." Around his fireplace on game day, his guests may find anything from hot dogs served on long marshmallow-roasting sticks to Chinese sticky wings, black bean spare ribs, or maple bourbon mustard-glazed corned beef sliced and served with rye bread. All of these fire-warmed foods are rich, delicious, and can be guiltlessly enjoyed on special occasions such as Super Bowl Sunday, according to Zimmern.

"The healthiest meal would be an apple or a salad but I don't understand why someone would do that on Super Bowl Sunday," he says. "It's like saying, 'I'm not gonna eat a lot on Thanksgiving'... certain days of the year rules go out the windows." With that being said, Zimmern still keeps health in mind on celebratory days.

"I'm trying to lose weight. So I'm probably going to skip the bun and have some of my corned beef," says Zimmern. "I'm purposely not making my artichoke dip that everyone wants me to make every year. I don't know how to say no to it."

In an attempt to eat flavorful game day foods without completely throwing nutritional caution to the wind, he suggests going for protein-rich foods like chicken wings and replacing bread with lettuce. He also says that one of the easiest ways to enjoy food healthily on game day is to watch your alcohol consumption.

"The most fattening thing to do on Super Bowl Sunday is to drink a lot of beer," he says. "Skip the beer and get some more food calories." You can also prevent a monumental caloric surplus by planning ahead.

"I always try to eat something before I go somewhere so that I'm not ravenous when I get there," he says. Zimmern notes that you shouldn't ever place responsibility on the host — you are the one responsible for how you eat. Eating before heading to your Super Bowl party allows you to control your food options, keeping nutrition completely in your hands. Having plans like this is something that Zimmern incorporates into his everyday life.

"I do it every morning when I leave the office... a big apple and a bottle of water in my bag. It's a life saver. If I don't want to have something that's offered somewhere, I know that I've got something in my bag to tide me over and get me through the day."

After discussing food and healthy eating, Zimmern talked football. He, a current Minnesota resident and native New Yorker, is a Giants fan at heart.

"I do a lot of events with the Vikings," he says. "I always root for the Vikings... as long as they're not playing the Giants." Unfortunately for Zimmern, Vikings fans, and Giants fans alike, this year's Super Bowl showcases a matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.

Zimmern's website houses dozens of recipes perfect for any occasion. Plenty of these are specifically geared to be perfect for Super Bowl Sunday. While you're looking through game day recipes, don't forget to check out our 15 Dishes You Have to Make for Super Bowl 50.

Andrew Zimmern stars in All Star Academy, premiering Feb. 14th at 10pm on Food Network.