Super Bowl Parties Hike Calorie Counts

The average American eats 2,400 calories at a party.

ByABC News
January 27, 2015, 9:55 AM

— -- Forget the New England Patriot’s deflategate. Diet experts say the real Super Bowl story is actually “inflategate” -- the anticipated eating frenzy at Super Bowl parties everywhere.

In fact, the average American will inflate their waistline several inches by gobbling up at least 2,400 calories during the four to five hour football viewing extravaganza, according to the Calorie Control Council, a low calorie food industry group.

That makes it the second biggest day of gluttony after Thanksgiving.

The number is far from scientific. Sylvia Poulos, the registered dietician who is a spokeswoman for the council, said the calorie consumption estimate comes from a list of popular food items people typically purchase for game day parties plus some statistics from other food industry groups.

Whatever the true count, the evidence does suggest a belt popping day of eating for the February 2 game.

Americans will scarf down roughly 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 3.8 million pounds of popcorn, and 3 million pounds of nuts, said the Snack Food Association. They’ll eat nearly 1 billion chicken wings on game day, according to the National Chicken Council. An estimated 48 million Americans will also order takeout, predicted the National Restaurant Association, while another 12 million people during the big game.

The Calorie Control Council’s number assumes eating two slices of pizza, dive mini hotdogs, a variety of chips, dip, wings and other snacks, at least three beers and regular sodas plus several desserts.

“You do tend to overeat because you’re so busy paying attention to the game, you don’t realize what’s going in your mouth,” said Connecticut-based exercise physiologist Tom Holland.

Studies by the Cornell University’s Food and Psychology lab confirmed Holland’s theory. Researchers threw a Super Bowl party so they could count up how many chicken wings their guests ate from a buffet. The subjects who had their leftover wing bones swept away ate, on average, seven wings – an additional 200 calories compared to those who sat at the messier, un-bussed tables. When the wings were boneless, their calorie intake increased by 35 percent.

The lack of bones created a sort of caloric blindness in the party goers, head researcher Brian Wansink speculated.

"All the evidence of what they'd eaten was removed," he explained. "There was nothing left to remind them of how many calories they'd consumed."

Even someone trying to practice restrain can easily lob a calorie bomb at their diet, said Holland.

For example, eating just the two slices of pepperoni pizza and a few beers cross the 1000 calorie threshold and pack nearly a day’s worth of fat, cholesterol and sodium, according to calculations from the USDA nutrition database.

To counteract a Super Bowl spread, Holland recommended having a good offense and a good defense.

“Work out extra hard and really watch what you eat a few days before the game,” he advised. “Then after the game hit the gym harder for a couple of weeks and cut back on your calories.”

Holland also advised focusing your exercise efforts on shorter, higher intensity workouts because they burn a good number of calories in a short period of time and offer a temporary boost to the metabolism.