Feb. 4, 2011 -- Sports fans and foodies are gearing up for arguably the most important event of the year, the Super Bowl. This calorie fest is among the few times of the year when gorging yourself on fried Twinkies and pumping your fists at the TV are completely acceptable.
Whether you're a Steelers fan or rooting for the Packers, one thing's for sure: Nothing compliments game-day trash talk quite like delicious calorie-packed, fat-laden snacks.
So, before the kickoff, check out the collection of recipes that's sure to please your palate and tip you scale.
In addition to the recipes, you can check out the caloric intake of each item so you'll know how many hours to spend at the gym to work off Sunday's epic food fest.
Double Chili Cheeseburger With Grilled Onions
Nothing pairs with football quite like a burger grilled to perfection. But the Super Bowl isn't just any game, and Emeril's double chili cheeseburger isn't just any burger. The combination of cheddar cheese, two smokey patties, homemade chili and onions is so decadent that you may be distracted from the game if only for a moment. Click here to get Emeril's recipe.
On a scale from zero to 10 (10 being the healthiest), nutrition experts Dr. Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, gave Emeril's double chili cheeseburger a two, tops.
"Emeril likes fatty meat for burgers and this one has two patties, plus the cheese," Ayoob said. "This meal shapes up to be a festival of fat."
To trim it down, use lean meat, go light on the cheese and load up the chili with hearty beans instead of beef.
"The grilled onions are terrific though, especially if you brush them with a little olive oil first," Ayoob said.
And using a whole wheat bun can boost the burger's nutritional value, Katz said.
"Emeril's dish should come with an aspirin, a statin, and a nitroglycerin tablet," Katz said.
Primanti Brother's Sandwich
No Super Bowl recipe compilation would be complete without a node to the 2011 AFC Pittsburgh Steelers. There are few foods as dear to Pittsburghers as the famous Primanti's sandwich, and even if you're not a football fan this sandwich is sure to satisfy.
The historic sandwich has everything you need inside two pieces of bread. Instead of being topped with lettuce and tomato, Primanti's opted for fresh cut French fries and homemade coleslaw. It saves room on the plate for all your other sides. Check out the Washington Post's adaptation of this popular meal and you can have a taste of the Steelers on game day.
But Ayoob and Katz gave Primanti's sandwich a one out of 10 for being too much of a lot of bad things.
"The inclusion of French fries and cole slaw -– no doubt rich in mayo -– weighs this down," Katz said.
Use a combo of sour cream and Greek yogurt instead of mayo in the slaw to cut some fat out. Or stuff the sandwich with veggies instead of side dishes.
"You don't need everything inside the bread," Ayoob said. "Slow it down and separate it a little, no need for everything in one bite."
They don't call them cheese-heads for nothing. Green Bay Packer fans are famous for their large cheese wedge-shaped hats and their obvious love of all things dairy. So, it comes as no surprise that they indulge in cheese curds on game day.
Cheese curds are a fried appetizer that are made from fresh cheese that squeaks when you bit into it. More than hot dogs, fries and nachos, Packers fans fill their stomachs with these fresh, fried cheese balls. Click here to find out everything you ever needed to know about cheese curds, including how to make them yourself.
Ayoob gave these a three, but stressed that three of them is enough.
"Cheese is a good food, but deep frying it is really gilding the lily," he said.
"Whether 'fried cheese' is merely bad, or truly dreadful, depends in part on what oil it's fried in," said Katz, who gave the cheese curds a 1. "No doubt, it's delicious; enjoy it on your way to the ICU"
For a healthier version, try a few cheese cubes with some fruit.
Who doesn't love nachos? They're the perfect combination of cheesy, crispy goodness and can be finished off with just about any unhealthy topping. Most people prefer chicken, jalapenos or even beans to add some extra texture and flavor.
These options are great for a Sunday afternoon snack, but just the regular recipe wasn't enough for Rachael Ray. She put her own chili-style stamp on the classic dish. This recipe features hot dogs, chili spices and all the goodness of your regular nacho cheese. Click here to check it out.
But fried chips topped with cheese and hot dogs didn't fare well on the scale, earning a 3 from Ayoob and a 1 from Katz.
"We've got high calories, high saturated fat and, in all probability, a smattering of carcinogens," Katz said, explaining that processed hot dogs contain nitrites.
"Better to start out with baked pita chips, some reduced-fat shredded cheese, and lots of diced veggies and shredded lettuce," Ayoob said.
Add some sliced olives, shredded white meat chicken and chili beans and you can kick nachos up to a 7, Ayoob said.
It's OK to have vegetables on the game day, as long as they're slathered with fresh cheese, tomato sauce and maybe some proscuitto. Although the accompanying ingredients may negate any of the vegetable's health affects, it will certainly please your taste buds. Click here for quick and easy veggie pizza recipe.
Going heavy on the veggies and tomato sauce and light on the cheese and prosciutto makes the pizza a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, Katz said, giving it a 4 out of 10.
But with a whole wheat crust, roasted veggies and reduced fat cheese, Ayoob said this pizza could score a game-winning 9.
True Packer fans will know a good beer brat when they see one.
The sausages are the more grown-up version of your typical stadium hot dog and certainly prepared to please. They are boiled in beer, finished on the grill, smothered with sauerkraut or sweet onion and served on a hearty bun. Click here to learn how to make the perfect beer brat.
Katz gave the brats a 3 because beer-boiling isn't bad and the sauerkraut and sweet onion give them some vitamins, minerals and fiber. But they earned a 2 from Ayoob, who says the "vegetable" is the only thing keeping them from earning a 1.
So, brats aren't your thing. Try a couple pan fried pierogies.
Not only is it a delicious snack but pierogies are a famous Pittsburgh tradition. According to about.com, Pittsburgh consumes 11 times more pierogies than any other city in the nation, and the city is so fond of the dish that the Pittsburgh Pirates hold a pierogi race at the bottom of the fifth inning during every home game. So, it's pretty safe to assume they've mastered the filled-pasta treat.
Traditional pierogies are potato-filled but these days, you're just as likely to find cheese-filled and even plum- and cheese-filled alternatives. Try your hand at this local tradition with this recipe from allrecipes.com.
But experts Katz and Ayoob gave these deep-fried starch and cheese bites a 1. To boost their score, use whole-grain pasta and stuff them with potato, onion, mushrooms and spinach, Katz said. Fry them in olive oil and they could even reach a 7. But Ayoob warned that these should be a special Super Bowl treat and not a habit.
Hot Rueben Dip
No Super Bowl celebration is complete without at least one dip. This Hot Rueben Dip is sure to do the trick, unless you're a cardiologist, that is. The gooey dish is the best parts of the Rueben sandwich without the bread. It's corned beef, cheese and cream cheese melted together and it's sure to please all football fans. Click here to check out the recipe.
Katz gave this dip a 1, but Ayoob said he could go as high as 3 if the portion size is limited. Use it to dip veggies or even apple slices.
"No need for chips for dipping; there's plenty of salt in the dip," Ayoob said.
Fried Shrimp and Cheese Ball
If you're looking for a delicious fried snack for your Super Bowl celebration, this is the right snack for you. The blog Doesn't TaZte Like Chicken created an approachable recipe for fried shrimp and cheese balls. This gooey and cheesy snack has just the right combination of a crunchy fried outer layer and a smooth, rich inner filling. Click here to check out the recipe.
Shrimp are a good source of omega-3 fat and protein, Katz said. But there are healthier ways to eat shrimp than breaded and deep-fried with cheese. Katz gave them a 4, but Ayoob said 2, adding that two balls is more than enough.
Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf
Paula Deen's bacon cheeseburger meatloaf is missing nothing. It's made with bacon, cheddar cheese, ground chuck and mayonnaise and topped with freshly fried onion rings. So, if you're looking for a dish that will keep you going the whole day, look no further. Click here for the recipe.
Katz and Ayoob gave this a 1.
"I love Paula Deen as a personality and an entertainer, but she has said publicly, 'I'm your cook, I'm not your nurse,'" Ayoob said. "Adding bacon and mayonnaise to fatty ground beef puts this dish in the category of "once a year" food."
The Super Bowl might be a fast-paced game but eating while watching it should be slow.
"If you want a good snack for the Super Bowl, try having nuts in the shell on the table," Ayoob said. "Pistachios are a favorite because they're healthy and you have to shell them one-by-one, so you get calories at about the right speed."
Almonds in the shell are another good bet for preventing Super Bowl snack overload. Grapes, clementines or tangerines, and meatless chili loaded with beans (a manly vegetable) are other simple snacks that score 10 out of 10, Ayoob said.