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The Five Most Unhealthful Super Bowl Party Foods: Findings

A Report from PCRM's Cancer Project
January 2009

Findings | Key Factors | Rating System/Detailed Results | References

As the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face off in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, football fans across the country are deciding what foods to serve at their Super Bowl parties. Although chicken wings, pepperoni pizzas, and sub sandwiches from fast-food restaurants are popular choices for celebrating on game day, health is not their strong suit. These high-fat, high-cholesterol party foods can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Even one high-fat meal can increase the risk of a heart attack that same day, according to some research. To determine which Super Bowl party foods pose the greatest risk to public health, dietitians with the Cancer Project analyzed party-style foods available for takeout or delivery from five fast-food restaurant chains.

Findings

Cancer Project dietitians found that most popular items offered for takeout or delivery on Super Bowl Sunday are high in fat, saturated fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol. Many items also include processed meats or grilled meats, which are linked to increased cancer risk. The five most unhealthful takeout or delivery items are ranked from worst to least bad.

Rank The Five Worst Super Bowl Party Foods

Fast-Food Restaurant

1 Deep Dish MeatZZa Feast Domino’s Pizza
2 The Meats Pan Crust Pizza Papa John’s
3 Creamy Chicken Alfredo Baked Tuscani Pasta Pizza Hut
4 Tuna Melt Quiznos
5 Honey BBQ Wings KFC

 

Background

Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving in the amount of food consumed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.1 At Super Bowl gatherings across the country, millions of Americans order takeout or delivery food from a restaurant—58 percent order pizza, 50 percent order chicken wings, and 20 percent order sandwiches or subs.2 Papa John’s alone expects to sell more than 750,000 pizzas and 1 million chicken wings on game day.3 Many pizza places are now offering other foods, including pasta, which is also included in this report.

Regular consumption of high-fat foods increases the long-term risk of heart disease,4 diabetes,5 and some types of cancer.6,7,8 High-fat meals can even raise the risk of a heart attack on game day itself: Sports fans already face an elevated risk of heart attack while viewing stressful sporting events,9 and other research has found that a single fatty meal, like pizza or chicken wings, can raise blood pressure, stiffen major arteries, and cause the heart to beat harder.10,11

Review Process

In January of 2009, dietitians with the Cancer Project reviewed the menus of five fast-food chains offering takeout or delivery on Super Bowl Sunday. Dietitians obtained menu information by reviewing company Web sites.

Dietitians evaluated each menu item based on key nutritional data, including the item’s calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber. Ratings are also based on carcinogenic criteria: These include preparation methods such as grilling and processing, which can increase the cancer risk associated with meat products, and the addition of cheese and other high-fat dairy products, which appear to play an important role in cancer risk.

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