Published on January 31, 2018

Serve up a healthy nachos bar for the Super Bowl

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Super Bowl Sunday is America’s second largest day for food consumption, surpassed only by Thanksgiving.

Pizza, chicken wings, pretzels, potato chips and dips are some of the top-selling foods. Domino’s Pizza estimates its Super Bowl Sunday sales are five times greater than the average Sunday. 

These popular convenience foods are packed with saturated fat and over the top in sodium, two areas where the American Heart Association likes to focus its nutrition recommendations. Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are often missing from Super Bowl feeds. 

If you’re planning a menu for a Super Bowl gathering, you don’t have to give up the fun in order for it to be healthy.

Try a nacho bar. Almost everyone has eaten nachos, a popular snack that’s often part of sporting events. Lay out a variety of healthy toppings that invite experimentation. Set up a build-your-own nacho bar and encourage guests to try different ingredients. 

Start with whole-grain tortilla chips, which are readily available. Blue chips are made from blue corn.  Check yellow chips to make sure they have whole grain listed on their label. Also check the sodium content. Many brands now have 75 milligrams of sodium or less in a one-ounce serving.

Have one hot meat available for protein. Try the taco meat recipe below or experiment with the other recipe for pulled chicken or pork. Mild chilies and chipotle chili powder add a little kick.

Incorporate some beans. Put out some canned black beans or white beans, heat refried beans or make the black bean salsa recipe. Or try some hummus, which is made from chickpeas. There are a variety of hummus flavors that blend well with nachos, such as roasted red pepper, garlic or black olives. 

Chop up a variety of vegetables and offer them in individual bowls. Onions, jalapeno peppers, black olives, avocados, tomatoes, lettuce and cilantro go well. Experiment with pineapple, fresh or canned.

Salsa is a must for nachos. Try the fresh tomato salsa recipe for a true fresh taste. It’s also much lower in sodium than jarred varieties. Check the label on salsas and look for one with less than 75 milligrams of sodium per serving. 

For toppings, try classic guacamole (see recipe below) or a light sour cream. avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which is a good fat. Offer shredded cheese, but don’t melt it, and don’t let a mountain of cheese overtake the other great flavors that your guests have assembled on their plates.

For the must-have pizza fans, set up a slower cooker of Pizza Pasta Soup (recipe below). The aroma of pizza will fill the air and please the palate. Round out the snacks with crunchy nuts and colorful cut-up fruit, such as melons, berries and “Cutie” tangerines.
Then sit back and enjoy a healthy Super Bowl feast.

Nacho Buffet Plan


Suggested items


Whole-grain tortilla chips

Blue corn chips or
yellow or white chips made from stone-ground corn that carry a whole-grain label

Whole grains provide more nutrients than more processed grains, including magnesium, zinc and selenium.  Look for brands with 75 milligrams of sodium or less per serving.

Meat for protein

Make taco meat (recipe below) with super lean ground beef or ground turkey and your own spices

Make pulled chicken or lean pork (recipe below)

Reduce sodium by using low-sodium ingredients and recipes.


Black beans
White beans
Refried beans

Black bean salsa (recipe below)


Beans are a great source of protein, potassium and magnesium. Check label for sodium in canned beans and choose the lowest you can find.
Rinse before using to lower sodium content.

Try different flavors of hummus.


Black olives
Fresh tomatoes

Chop or slice to add the colors, vitamins and nutrients of healthy vegetables.


Fresh salsa (recipe below) or salsa from produce section or lower sodium brands in jars.

Be aware of high levels of sodium. Choose a salsa that has 75 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.


Shredded reduced fat cheese

Keep the cheese to a minimum and look for 4 grams of saturated fat or less per serving.

Creamy toppings

Guacamole (recipe below)
Light sour cream

Make your own guacamole for a fresher taste. Make at the last minute to avoid darkening.

Something extra


Other fruits such as melons, berries, “Cuties” tangerines
Lightly salted nuts

Try fresh or canned pineapple with the nacho fixings.

Fruit will provide the sweet treat and contrast the spiciness.

Taco Meat
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon dried red pepper, crushed
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup water
1 pound 90 percent or leaner ground beef or ground turkey

Combine spices in a small bowl and blend well. Brown 1 pound very lean ground beef or turkey in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add water and seasoning mix. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Nutrition facts
Servings, 6; serving size, ¼ cup; calories, 140; total fat, 8 grams; saturated fat, 3 grams; cholesterol, 50 milligrams; trans fat, 0 grams; sodium, 75 milligrams; potassium, 270 milligrams; carbohydrates, 1 gram; fiber, 0 grams; protein, 15 grams. (If using ground turkey, calories are 115 and saturated fat is 2 grams.)

Pulled Chicken/Pork
8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
4-ounce can chopped green chilies
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili powder
2½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or pork loin trimmed of fat
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

Stir tomato sauce, chilies, vinegar, honey, paprika, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and ground chipotle into a slow cooker and mix well. Add chicken or pork, onion and garlic; stir to combine. Cook on low until the meat can be pulled apart, about 5-6 hours. Remove meat from sauce and shred with a fork. Return to the sauce, stir well and serve.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10; serving size, ½ cup; calories, 200; total fat, 9 grams; saturated fat, 2.5 grams; trans fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 100 milligrams; sodium, 125 milligrams; potassium, 100 milligrams; carbohydrates, 8 grams; fiber, 1 gram; protein, 20 grams.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
4 large tomatoes
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped with seeds removed
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
½ small green pepper, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic (1 teaspoon)
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Chop vegetables and combine in serving bowl. Add garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and red pepper. Mix to combine.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 40; serving size, 2 tablespoons; calories, 8; total fat, 0 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 2 milligrams; potassium, 90 milligrams; carbohydrates, 2 grams; fiber, 0.5 gram; protein, 0 grams.
Black Bean Salsa
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
Jalapeno pepper, chopped (if desired)

Mix lime juice, oil and cumin in a small bowl. Combine corn, cilantro, black beans, red bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; toss. Drizzle dressing over bean mixture and mix.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16; serving size, ¼ cup; calories, 40; total fat, 1 gram; saturated fat, 0 grams; trans fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 30 milligrams; potassium, 165 milligrams; carbohydrates, 7 milligrams; fiber, 1.5 grams; protein, 2 grams. 

4 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon or 1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)

Peel avocado and remove pit. Using a fork, mash the avocado in a bowl. Stir in lime juice and garlic. Add remaining ingredients and blend.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12; serving size, 1/4 cup; calories, 82; total fat, 7 grams; saturated fat, 1 gram; trans fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 5 milligrams; potassium, 265 milligrams; carbohydrates, 75 grams; fiber, 3.5 grams; protein, 1 gram. 

Pasta Pizza Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound 90 percent/super lean ground beef
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced or chopped
½ cup red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups water
14-½ ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 medium carrots, shredded
4 cups unsalted beef broth (less than 200 milligrams sodium per cup)
1½ teaspoon dried oregano or Chef Paul Prudhommes’ Pasta & Pizza Seasoning
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups cooked whole-wheat pasta (4 ounces dry pasta)

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat oil.  Add beef, mushrooms, onion, celery, peppers and garlic. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in water, tomatoes, carrots, broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until carrots are tender. Stir in pasta; heat through.  

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12; serving size, 1 cup; calories, 110; total fat, 5 grams; saturated fat, 2 grams; cholesterol, 25 milligrams; trans fat, 0 grams; sodium, 120 milligrams; potassium, 345 milligrams; carbohydrates, 12 grams; fiber, 2.5 grams; protein, 11 grams.  

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