01/27/2014 06:41 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2014

Forget the Nutritional Fire and Brimstone on Super Bowl Sunday


Is it ironic or perverse that just as January (aka, National Diet month) ends, the country is plunged into its first annual national binge day? Sure, there is much more hype about the multi-course Thanksgiving dinner, with its festive and traditional foods, but that dinner at least has a vegetable or two on the table. And although the meal may last an hour or two, the eating does not occupy the better part of a day. Not so with The Game. If one reads about the venue, it seems as if there is more information about what to eat in New Jersey on the days preceding (cheese and onion covered sausage rolls seems to be a winner), than the actual game itself.

Theoretically, the point of game day is to watch the game. Theoretically, it should be possible to do this without constantly eating and drinking. Theoretically, the game should be so compelling that no refreshments should be necessary, except perhaps a few pretzels and some ice water.

The reality is somewhat different. Someone figured out that Americans consume about 30 million pounds of food and over 50 million cases of beer on game day. Chips are the favored snack food. We eat on that day about 11.2 million pounds of potato chips. It is a wonder that anyone can hear the game over the sounds of crunching and the popping of beer can lids!

But why not enjoy all aspects of this day, including the frivolous eating? Despite the constant preaching about the evils of eating foods that really taste good and satisfy some deep hidden craving, I suspect that people will ignore the sermons and eat what they want.

It is unlikely that too many people will be crunching only celery sticks. Potato chips will probably not be replaced by kale chips across the living rooms of America. Advertisers at half time are not going to lecture us about the sins of eating gluten, sugar and salt and then wax on about the joy of eating blocks of tempeh. It is possible that some game watchers will be sipping their colon-cleanse diet drink of lemon juice and pepper? Cleanse diets, I suspect, are suspended and a clean colon will have to wait until the next day. And if a poll were taken to see how many game watchers are into serious discussions about the effect of their snacks on insulin resistance, as opposed to the skill of a particular player, few would be found in the former category.

Perhaps this multitasking day: eating and watching television, or eating and watching the game from the stands, maybe it's good for us. Maybe it halts, at least for a day, the almost constant barrage of nutritional fire and brimstone. We can stop paying attention, at least for a few hours, to the television gurus and authors who are claiming that every ill we experience or will be forecasted for our personal futures is caused by what we are putting in our mouths. Maybe we can relax about what we are eating for a few hours and not contemplate how many days will have to be spent on the treadmill to compensate for all those Buffalo wings.

To be sure, many of us do not eat nutritionally adequate or sensible diets on most days, not just Super Bowl game day. Munchies, pizza and beer may represent a typical diet for a few, with the consequent weight gain and its medical side effects, i.e. high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Eating a Super Bowl diet all year could have a disastrous effect on whether one will be around the following year to watch the game again.

But Super Bowl game food may push the pendulum of hysterical, "You will die an early death if you eat that!" back to a more common-sense approach to our food intake. It is not really necessary to punish ourselves by completely eliminating the consumption of foods that we love in order to live a healthy long life. Can't we return to a moderate, sensible approach to changing our diet from an approach that condemns without mercy many ingredients in our food that makes food enjoyable, festive and special? Can we not "cut back" rather than "cut out" foods we are told are poisoning our bodies, such as sugar? (Curiously the sugar police never mention cutting out alcohol completely. I wonder why?)

Let food be part of a pleasurable, albeit possible stressful, game-watching experience. Is game food good for us? Probably not. Will it shorten our life span, cause memory loss, mental illness, sexual impotence and all sorts of other dire problems that we are told could befall us if eat a cheese-drenched sausage roll once a year? Unlikely.

No one knows who is going to win The Game. And eating some wings, pizza or dips will not affect the outcome. But it may make watching the game more fun, regardless of who wins.