1.25 Billion Chicken Wings? The Vast Amounts of Crappy Food Americans Consume on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is a day most Americans either revile or revere. I'll be rooting for the Giants (in the absence of Green Bay) -- and that alone may make some of you hate me already. But that's really what Sunday's all about, isn't it? The Super Bowl is a day for both competitiveness and camaraderie. I'll be among the 100-million-plus people who'll tune it to see whether the multi-millionaires' or the billionaires' team will win.

Some of us viewers are die-hard fans, who've racked up hours all season long watching the adrenaline-pumping wins, the heartbreaking losses, the nausea-inducing Tebow-mania, the horrific head injuries and inappropriate touchdown dances. Others are fair-weather fans, tuning in to catch Madonna's halftime show, or the commercials (how many sexist ads can they squeeze in this year?) or maybe just as an excuse to party.

But whether you're a Giants fan, a Pats fan, or wholeheartedly indifferent, many of us will behave this Sunday like bears getting ready for winter hibernation. In fact, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest food consumption day of the year, topped only by Thanksgiving. We've somehow turned watching a sport into eating (and drinking) like it's a sport.

Americans will be stockpiling the calories (about 1,200 a person) and the majority of those calories are likely to come from unhealthy stuff like pizza, chips and dip, chicken wings and snack food. Here's a breakdown that may make you feel full already. On the big day Americans will eat

  • 1.25 billion chicken wings
  • 46 million pounds of potato chips
  • 177 million pounds of snack foods like pretzels, tortilla chips and popcorn
  • 71 million pounds of avocados (after all, who could watch football without guacamole?)

And there will be millions upon millions of slices of pizza eaten. According to Justine Sterling at Delish.com, pizza sales will spike about 35 percent. Just one chain alone, Papa John's, expects to serve up about 1 million pies for the big game -- which for reference, breaks down to 2 million pounds of cheese and 350,000 pounds of pepperoni. Domino's hopes do do better, cooking up 1.2 million pizzas, and Pizza Hut will produce a staggering 2 million. 

All this adds up to a ton of money. The cost for those 177 million pounds of snacks alone is just over a billion dollars, according to this infographic at Alltop. We'll spend $36.3 million on cheese puffs, $184.8 million on potato chips, $189.7 million on crackers, and for our gluten-free comrades, $11.8 million on rice cakes.

But our food tab is just part of the expense. An infographic from SaveOnBrew predicts we'll spend over $10 billion on beer alone -- they break that down to 50 million cases of brew consumed by folks in their homes on Sunday. I'm hoping that's more wishful thinking by beer companies than accurate data. As Colin Joliat writes at Guyism.com, "That means that every single alcohol-drinking American over the age of 15 will drink 7 beers on Sunday." Maybe they meant 50 million beers instead of cases? 

If it seems like viewers end up shelling out a lot of money to enjoy the game, just think how much advertisers are spending in hopes that you'll pick their products. A 30-second ad spot costs $3.5 million these days -- up from $2.1 million in 2003.

Burning it Off

If you're planning to indulge on Super Bowl Sunday, Charles Platkin, an assistant professor at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, has calculated what you'll need to do to burn it off. Here are some of his clever calculations:

  • If you eat three fried mac-and-cheese balls you'll need to run the equivalent of 249 football fields.
  • Three slices of Pizza Hut's Meat Lovers Pizza means 1,229 minutes of Tebowing.
  • Drinking a six-pack of Bud is going to cost you 4,280 repetitions of "the wave."
  • If you eat 10 potato chips with onion dip you'll need to dance for 134 minutes to Madonna's halftime show.
  • Five tortilla chips with seven-layer dip will mean 110 minutes spent cleaning up the stadium post game.

Of course, there are other ways to enjoy the game without making Anheuser-Busch and Kraft foods any richer. If you want to limit the damage to your health and to the environment, trying ditching the meat and dairy (or cutting back). Big Meat really doesn't need your help, but the animals do. There are great Web sites with recipes for vegan and vegetarian food perfect for game day. (This may be the best recipe ever for vegetarian meatballs -- I'd recommend serving it Swedish style, with dipping sauces.) 

And all those food rules that apply on the other 364 days of the year still apply on Super Bowl Sunday. Eat and drink locally -- support your local pizzeria or sandwich shop or brewery or farmers' market; make food with friends; eat organic; don't forget your veggies; pick real foods over processed foods. If you're a calorie counter then before the game take your dog for a walk, go for a run, take a hike or throw the ball around.

While you're enjoying the game, don't forget the politics. As the Giants and the Pats battle it out in Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium there will likely be protests in the state of Indiana over the governor's signing of an anti-worker and anti-union law on February 1. Even 50 million cases of beer can't make that law any easier to swallow.  

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