Health+Wellness • Article

Friday Football: Lighten Up Game Day Food

Mary Luz Mejia

Share this article

For a game-day viewing parties, break the food rules this year. You don't have to sacrifice flavor, fun, or a good night's sleep. These snack ideas will score big points when you're entertaining sports fans. Lighten things up with this exclusive recipe from Sleep Number.


Cheer on your favorite team without leaning on the usual deep fried, carb-heavy, cheese-laden offerings.


The Case for Going Light

Many game day favorites include spicy food — take chili and chicken wings, for starters. Add pizza and fries, and that's a recipe for disturbed sleep. If you're eating heavier foods like this later in the day, or at night, according to the Mayo Clinic, you may have a harder time falling and staying asleep. Anything more than a light snack late in the evening may lead to indigestion, heartburn or acid reflux, which may keep you awake.


If you plan to have a few cocktails or beers with your game day eats, they can disrupt your sleep too. Your body takes one hour to metabolize a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like vodka or tequila. This can lead to what experts call rebound wakefulness, that is, once the alcohol is metabolized, your body wakes up when you should be sleeping.


Eat This, Not That

Healthier options don't mean giving up on full flavor. Try an assortment of non-fried, baked tortilla chips alongside a lighter ground turkey chili, instead of using heavier beef, like this recipe by Genius Kitchen. If you make it in a slow cooker, you can be more hands-off while everyone serves themselves, buffet style. Top with light sour cream and chopped green onions.


Potato skins get a lighter touch with chopped broccoli florets in this vegetarian version from the BBC. If you dip, try Greek yogurt with your favorite spices, and arrange crisp, fresh veggies instead of chips.


For those who crave deep-fried onion rings, there's a lighter recipe for that, too. These smoky, paprika-nuanced baked rings with a southwestern dipping sauce are just the ticket to front row football viewing.


Smoky Baked Onion Rings with a Southwest Dipping Sauce

Serves: 6


Total Time: 30 minutes



  • 1 large white or sweet Vidalia onion, peeled, sliced cross-wise, and separated into rings


  • 2 large eggs + 2 tablespoons of water, beat together with a pinch of salt


  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric


  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder


  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika pepper


  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs


  • 1/2 cup flour (can be spelt, gluten-free, or whole wheat flour)


  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  • Olive oil cooking spray


Southwest Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt


  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce (ideally with some chipotle for heat and a smoky flavor)


  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise


  • 1 teaspoon lime juice, freshly squeezed


  • Zest of one lime


  • Sea salt & pepper to taste



  1. Preheat oven to 450°F with racks situated in the upper and lower thirds.


  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.


  3. Set up a dredging station with three medium sized bowls. One bowl contains the flour, salt and spices which have been whisked to combine. The second bowl contains the eggs and water which have been beaten together with a pinch of salt, and the third, the panko bread crumbs.


  4. Taking one onion ring at a time, toss it in flour first, then shake off excess. Dip it in the egg wash to completely coat. Finally, toss the ring in the bread crumbs so it's completely covered.


  5. Place the onion rings one at a time on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat the steps until all onion rings are coated and on the baking sheets. To save room, nestle the smaller rings inside the larger ones.


  6. Spray onion ring tops with olive oil cooking spray and bake for 15-20 minutes. Look for the onion rings to turn a nice, golden brown.

  7. While your onion rings are baking, prepare the dipping sauce by whisking all of the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with your onion rings.


  8. When done baking, sprinkle the onion rings with sea salt and serve alongside your dipping sauce while still warm.


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep has a profound impact on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Because no two people sleep the same, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably and provide proven quality sleep. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep, and if you own a Sleep Number® bed, log in to your InnerCircle℠ Rewards account to see your exclusive offers, refer friends and more.



Colombian-born, Canadian raised Mary Luz Mejia is a twice nominated NATJA nominated freelance food/travel journalist, certified chocolate taster, Gemini-nominated former food TV producer and food content marketer. She has written for enRoute,, the Toronto Star, Travel+Leisure, Ensemble Vacations, The Globe and Mail, and Toronto Life to name a few. 

Share this article