Take Me Out to the Ballgame (Party)

Have a weight-loss-friendly Fall Classic.
Baseball fans

If you think being on the Weight Watchers plan means you'll strike out hosting a World Series party, think again. We've got a former major-league baseball star, beer and whiskey experts, and celebrity chefs with tips to help you throw a perfect pitch at your postseason party.

"If you're watching at home, you've got to have all the snacks," says Dale Murphy, one of baseball's dominant players in the 1980s. "Culturally, it's just so engrained: When you watch, you're eating. And when we're social and together, we're eating."

Good times and good healthy grub should be had by all (using these ideas for healthy baseball-bash eats):

Hit a healthy homer.

Because former major-league baseball stud Dale Murphy has even more hungry kids (eight) than All-Star Game appearances (seven), the health-conscious dad would like to see public-service announcements reminding sports fans to “throw in celery and carrots” and eat healthfully at parties. “I wish we would think a little more about fruits and vegetables, but boy, we just go straight for the wings and other stuff.”

So consider this your weight-loss-friendly PSA. Our all-star menu managers agreed on several suggestions to trim the fat but not the taste out of your World Series party:

1Munch (or drink) in moderation. “If you’re going to take in a little bit of fat, don’t take in a bucket of food,” says Michael Symon, a chef from Cleveland.
2Use your grill to reduce fat and kick up the flavor. Yes, even in October. “Grilling is great. I think it’s a lot healthier alternative than frying or sautéing on your stove,” says Tom Strelka, of Sprecher Brewing Company in the Milwaukee area.
3Don’t mindlessly graze or gulp. It’s easy to pig out or drink too much in the moment. “You don’t even think about it,” Murphy says. Time to start, he suggests.
4Offer healthy alternatives. Cut fat and calories out of recipes and buy food that won’t kill your diet or taste buds.

Picking the Food Lineup
Pizza: This is a must-have for the Murphys and their eight hungry kids. They slice baguettes, top with pizza sauce, cheese, meat and veggies, and bake. Health it up by using lowfat mozzarella cheese, turkey pepperoni, lean Canadian bacon and extra bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms, etc.

Gavin Kaysen, a chef at San Diego's El Bizcocho and contestant on the Food Network reality series "The Next Iron Chef," suggests broiling pita bread until crispy. Then top with caramelized onions, tomatoes, goat cheese and basil. Bake until the cheese melts. "It's great, it's healthy, it's easy to do," he says.

Popcorn: "That's our vegetables," Murphy jokes. Cook it without oil in an air-popper and use a low-cal spray instead of drowning it in a buttery bath. Try lowfat microwavable bags or popcorn seasonings. For faux kettle corn, add butter spray, Splenda and a pinch of salt.

Seven-layer bean dip and chips: Make this a non-diet-killer by using lower-fat refried beans or puréed black beans, fat-free sour cream, fat-free cheddar cheese, tomatoes, chilies, olives, green onions and a thin layer of guacamole. Dip with baked tortilla chips, carrots or celery.

Faux fries: Make root-veggie fries by chopping up carrots, parsnips and celery root. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and bake for 30 minutes at 400ºF. "It's probably my most favorite thing on the whole Earth," Kaysen says. "I'd eat that over candy in a heartbeat."

Another fry option: Microwave potatoes until you can pierce with a fork. Cut into wedges and sprinkle with barbecue- or steak-seasoning rub. Grill for a few minutes on each side. Serve with barbecue sauce or ketchup.

Brats and dogs: Murphy smashed 398 home runs, had 2,000-plus hits, won five Gold Gloves in the Atlanta Braves outfield, earned back-to-back National League MVP awards and was a well-respected role model for 18 seasons. One of the seven-time All-Star's major-league highlights: Playing (and eating) at Chavez Ravine. "Every road trip to L.A., I got excited about Dodger Dogs." Unfortunately, they don't deliver, but several brands now make healthier "diet dogs" using poultry or less-fatty mysterious animal parts. Instead of heavy pork bratwursts, opt for chicken brats and turkey kielbasa, suggests Tom Strelka of Sprecher Brewing Company in the Milwaukee area. Relish, pickles, sauerkraut and spicy mustards are good topping options.

Cook the brats — or lower-fat hot dogs — on the grill to get that added smoky taste and tailgate atmosphere, Strelka suggests.

Skewered meat/veggies: Grilled kebabs are a popular and healthy choice. Guests can pick veggies and meat (skinless chicken, lean steak, pork tenderloins or even fish) and grill them on a stick. Mixing in firm veggies that won't fall apart in the heat — such as onions, bell peppers and potatoes — can help you consume fewer calories.

Asian chicken: Kaysen has a manly and healthy approach to what he calls "an extremely girlie food" — salad. Use boiled rice noodles, not lettuce, as the base for this Asian salad. Thinly slice boneless chicken breasts and marinate in soy sauce (1 cup), honey (1/4 cup), lime juice (3 tablespoons) and chili paste (1 tablespoon). Grill, and top "salad" with chicken and cilantro.

Steak and salsa: Homemade salsa will be a hit, says chef Michael Symon, another The Next Iron Chef contestant. Chop parsley (4 bunches), garlic (4 cloves) and 4 shallots. Combine juice from 2 lemons with extra-virgin olive oil (3 cups) in large mixing bowl. Whisk, mixing in chili flakes (1/2 tablespoon). Toss with 2 diced tomatoes and serve with grilled steak or chips.

Chicken wings: Can't forget these, right? Grill or roast to make them leaner, suggests Symon, a Cleveland Indians fan. Or try this Weight Watchers buffalo wings recipe:

Wash and pat dry 3 pounds of skinned wings. Cut the tips off and halve at the joints. Combine in a large sealable bag: cider vinegar (3 tablespoons), chicken broth (2 tablespoons), vegetable oil (2 teaspoons), hot pepper sauce (2 teaspoons); add chicken, squeeze air out and seal. Turn bag to coat wings and refrigerate. After 30 minutes, drain and throw out marinade. Use a nonstick spray on the broiler pan, and broil chicken 5 inches from heat until golden and cooked (about 10 minutes each side).

Serve with celery and dipping sauce made of crumbled blue cheese (1/4 cup), plain fat-free yogurt (1/4 cup) and reduced-fat mayonnaise (1 tablespoon).

Taco soup: For this hearty chili crowd-pleaser, brown 1 pound of extra-lean ground beef with a medium onion in a large pot. Add whole tomatoes (28-ounce can), tomato sauce (two 8-ounce cans), red kidney beans (16-ounce can), whole kernel corn (14-ounce can), water (1 cup) and a package of taco seasoning mix. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add baked tortilla chips, fat-free sour cream and lowfat cheese. (And pray the game doesn't go into extra innings.)

Desserts: Pumpkin cookies are perfect for the Fall Classic. Mix a 15-ounce can of pumpkin, a spice cake mix and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips. Bake at 350ºF for about 15 minutes. Try a lighter chocolate cake by substituting the eggs, oil and water with a can of pumpkin or a can of diet cola (no, really). Or serve sliced apples with a sugar-free caramel topping.

Picking the liquid lineup
Lite beer: Lighter brews are an option for partiers trying to cut back on calories. Strelka says guys can fall into a light-beer trap, thinking they can down way more because most light beers have about 100 calories per 12 ounces, compared to about 150 for regular beer.

Microbrewery ales: Your taste buds might thank you if you try local microbrewery offerings instead of invading the 7-Eleven beer cooler. Anne Sprecher, Sprecher Brewing Company's director of communications, suggests tipping back beers with lots of taste — amber lagers, brown pub ales and robust porters. "The more flavor there is, the more satisfying, so you're not going to have to drink a lot," she says.

Her other drinking tip: Switch between guzzling water and brew to moderate your alcohol-and-calorie intake.

For a curveball, Strelka suggests trying some of the "great dessert beers." But beware: Sweeter, heartier and higher-alcohol beers pack more calories, he says.

Bourbon: Bernie Lubbers, a "whiskey professor" for Jim Beam, suggests making a "Presbyterian" by mixing bourbon with ginger ale and soda water. The ginger ale brings out the vanilla flavors from the barrel, and the water cuts down the calories, "but it's still a tasty drink," he says. Another whiskey option: Try Basil Hayden's with soda water and a wedge of lemon.

Mojitos: Kaysen says he's "a sucker" for this drink. It's a combination of rum (or gin), soda water, ice, sugar and mint. Try it with peaches or oranges.

Non-alcoholic options: Offer the usuals — Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi — and consider a microbrewery diet root beer (Sprecher's has 15 calories per 8 ounces). You can also look like you're drinking (if that's important) by mixing cranberry juice with soda water for a faux cocktail, Sprecher suggests. And keep a jug of lowfat milk handy in case Murphy — known for his squeaky-clean lifestyle as much as his stellar play — happens to drop in.

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