The sports fan’s guide to healthy snacking

Mindful eating may not be practical when a championship title is at stake (and you’re trash-talking the other team). Pregame with a plan that supports your snacking needs and your big-picture goals.
Published January 26, 2023

Whenever world-class athletes face off for athletic glory, you can be sure of one thing: The rest of us will be hunkered down with plenty of snacks as we root for our favourite contenders.

Question is, how do we make mindful eating choices amid the excitement of a high-stakes football game or baseball playoffs? “When our attention is on other things—like a conversation we’re having or the competition we’re watching—we’re less likely to notice how much we’ve eaten, how full we feel, and sometimes, even the fact that we still are eating,” says psychologist Allison Grupski, PhD, WW’s vice Ppesident of behavior-change strategies and coaching.

That’s why Dr. Grupski advises sports fans to go in with a game plan of their own. Whether you’ll be cheering from your couch or venturing out to a viewing party or a tailgate, start from a place of self-awareness: “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” Dr. Grupski explains. “That pull is due in part to dopamine being released in our brains, a neurotransmitter that gives us a strong urge to take a specific action.” Do you tend to munch more when you’re parked in front of the TV? Do you enjoy a drink or two in social settings? Know thyself and proceed accordingly.

From there, it’s all about building a playbook that allows you to savor your snacks and drinks with intention—an approach most people find way more enjoyable than randomly noshing on autopilot. Dr. Grupski recommends the “if/then” technique, which encourages you to think through likely scenarios. For example, “If I want to snack while watching a soccer match, I will fill one plate and then put that plate in the dishwasher when I’m done,” or “If I decide to drink, then I’ll have two IPAs, max.”

Need an assist in figuring out exactly what to eat and drink? Read below for a little expert coaching from registered dietitian, Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN.

Pop fresh produce

Counting your bites may not be your top concern when you’re glued to those gymnastics tumbling passes. Totally understandable. Leveraging ZeroPoint® foods like cherry tomatoes, frozen grapes, and grilled fruit skewers can keep you noshing without the mental math. Another delicious snacking idea when you’re in the zone: Instead of chips or crackers, use raw or grilled veggie slices as vehicles for Budget-friendly dips.

Consider canned drinks

Beer isn’t the only adult beverage that comes in a can these days. Canned wine, hard seltzer, and ready-to-sip cocktails offer pop-top convenience and portion control—you won’t have to miss a moment of that rugby match trying to eyeball your pour. Just be sure to check labels beforehand for added ingredients you may not want. Some canned drinks contain syrups and sugars in addition to the key ingredients of booze, wine, and fizzy water. Always good to know what you’re actually sipping!

Extend your crunch time

Listen, no shade if you’re that person at the party who hand-selects exactly 12 unbroken chips from the bowl for a perfectly trackable serving. For those of us who just want a giant handful of something crunchy, a high-volume snack such as air-popped popcorn might be the way to go.

Prioritize actual party foods

World-class sporting events are festive occasions. Your food choices can feel just as special! As you survey the party platter or buffet, consider which items you can only get at this gathering—and maybe edit out any options that wouldn’t add much to your experience. The saltines you have in your pantry at home? Meh. But your friend’s gold-medal blue-cheese dip, which she concocts once every four years using a top-secret recipe? Scoop it up and enjoy.

Resist rating yourself

Reminder: Eating is not a sport you can win or lose. So don’t pressure yourself to score a perfect 10! Your food choices on any particular day will not make or break your journey, and outside judges do not determine the quality of your “performance.” Empower yourself to take stock of what worked, what didn’t go as well, and what you think might feel good, taste delicious, and keep you energized as you plan ahead for tomorrow.


Erin Quinlan is a features editor at WW.


This article was reviewed for accuracy in July 2021 by WW Senior Nutrition Manager Angela Goscilo, MS, RD, CDN. The WW Science Team is a dedicated group of experts who ensure all our solutions are rooted in the best possible research.