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Super Bowl doesn’t have to be a feeding frenzy

Sunday is not only a big game day. For those of us gathering in living rooms in Denver, Seattle and everywhere in between, it’s also a big eating day.

In fact, the Super Bowl is the nation’s second largest day for food consumption, next to Thanksgiving Day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s gobs of loaded nachos, spicy meatballs and, of course, the staple food of the Super Bowl, chicken wings.

Get this: 1.25 billion wings will be devoured during Super Bowl XLVIII, matching the record level of 2012 and about 20 million more wings than consumed during last year’s big game.

Many Super Bowl menus are not only high in fat and calories but also a recipe for indigestion and, if not careful, food-borne illness. But Sunday doesn’t have to be centered on the TV and an endless snack buffet. By putting together a game plan that includes getting off that couch to move during the day and swapping out processed foods for raw vegetables, you can enjoy the football festivities without overdoing it, according to experts.

Keith Kantor, a Norcross, Ga., nutritionist and author of the new book “The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice” (Effective Press $38.95), recommends fighting the temptation to skip meals before the game. Showing up to a party starving is “only asking for trouble,” he said, and will lead to inhaling double the amount of dips and chips you’d normally consume.

Another way to balance out excess calories is by getting plenty of exercise. Avoid sitting around before the game, since you will be doing so much of that during the game, he said.

Jennifer Hill Booker, a personal chef in Atlanta and owner of the catering company Your Resident Gourmet, likes to serve food in courses, which can help keep the menu exciting (even if the battle between the Seahawks and the Broncos isn’t). Bringing out food little by little also ensures food doesn’t sit too long.

She likes to mix traditional Super Bowl bites with low-fat options. For example, she often begins with a hummus platter paired with a plate of hot wings, followed by fruit kabobs accompanied by queso and chips, and finished with a build-your-own-salad and side of meatballs.

“If you make sure you add vegetables and whole grains with traditional Super Bowl fare, you’ll enjoy the food, be satisfied and you won’t have the food hangover the next day,” Booker said.

This year, Booker will watch the game at a friend’s house and plans to bring a vegetable platter with homemade black-eyed peas hummus along with chips and a homemade queso concoction (made with cheese, salsa and spinach).

One of Booker’s favorite munchies is homemade popcorn dishes. By adding some spices such as cayenne or brown sugar for sweetness, popcorn can be an enticing and high-fiber, vitamin-rich alternative to chips. (One of her stove-top recipes calls for up to a ¼ cup of oil, ½ to two-thirds cup of popcorn kernels; once popcorn is popped, add one to two teaspoons of fresh, cracked black pepper, a third of a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and sea salt to taste.)

Raw vegetables are always a good go-to snack if you find yourself still tempted to nosh out of boredom after finishing a meal.

Ashley Skorcz, a registered dietitian with Children’s Healthcare Atlanta, said there’s no reason to think healthy options can’t also be fun and fully satisfying. Kids and adults like choices so she plans to provide guests with lots of options such as an array of dips – such as black bean dip, hummus and a homemade Greek yogurt dip (instead of high fat ranch dip) – for dipping vegetables and whole wheat pita slices.

She’s also a big fan of homemade popcorn snacks. For guests, she likes to serve air-popped popcorn and set up a station to let them make their own mix. She includes everything from dark chocolate to raisins and nuts to hot sauces.

Sometimes, the experts say it’s not really about your appetite. Sometimes, we overeat because we are simply tired. With that in mind, getting a good night’s rest Saturday night could be the key to eating in moderation.