Healthy eating tips for your sleep apnea during football season

When the leaves start to change, you know what that means… it’s football season in America! From high schools in West Texas and colleges in Michigan to professional teams in New York, gridiron games are in full swing across the country. Finally, Saturdays and Sundays are filled with men vying for control of a brown, oval-shaped ball again.

The season also brings food, lots and lots of delicious food. Whether it’s at a backyard barbecue or a stadium tailgate for the big game, we’re willing to bet you’ll be eating like a champion this season.

But how can eating all of these tasty treats and snacks affect your sleep apnea? Are there ways to snack healthier during your favorite team’s game? What foods should you avoid? The questions seem to be endless. But worry not, friend. We’ve got answers to help you enjoy some healthy half-time snacks.

Foods to avoid with sleep apnea

We know it can be hard to resist certain treats – especially when your team is on a roll and you want to celebrate by dunking a fried chicken wing into a bowl of ranch. But sometimes the tastiest snacks may not be the best for you.

Research suggests that adopting a healthy diet1, even during football season, may improve your apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which is the scale used to evaluate the severity of your sleep apnea. With that in mind, here are a few unhealthy foods to avoid during your next tailgate:

  • Refined carbohydrates. Anything high in added sugars like honey, cane sugar or corn syrup are considered refined carbohydrates. They hold little, if any, dietary benefits and will give you a high calorie count, which can ultimately result in unwanted weight gain, which has been associated with a higher AHI.2
  • High-fat meats. Football and barbecue go hand in hand. That’s why holding off on the bratwurst, sirloin steaks, spareribs, bacon and burgers is going to be tough. They’re staples at almost any barbecue and tailgate, but the saturated fats in these meats can be detrimental to maintaining a healthy weight.
  • High-fat dairy products. There’s almost nothing better on game day than a plate of nachos smothered in melted cheddar or a four-cheese pizza. But like other foods on this list, cheese and other high-fat dairy products that are rich in saturated fat can put you at an increased risk for health problems that can be associated with sleep apnea.
  • Alcohol. Nothing goes better with tailgate food like a cold beer. However, alcohol is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea and increased AHI.3 On game day, and every day, it’s best to drink responsibly.

Healthy diet substitutes for better sleep

Don’t panic. We wouldn’t let you go hungry on game day. You can substitute the foods listed above with healthier options that are just as tasty. These alternate snacks will reduce your cravings come kickoff:

  • Try a healthier dip. Replace the cheese dip you’d usually dunk your nachos in with something a little less… fake. A black bean dip, bowl of humus or low-calorie salsa are worthy sub-ins. Cashew cheese sauce is another good replacement, and lots of recipes include healthy ingredients like garlic, lemon and herbs. Take it one step further by using cut up vegetables instead of regular potato chips.
  • Swap your sweets. Back away from those amazing chocolate chip cookies and freshly baked cupcakes. Your sweet tooth will be satisfied with fruits like mangos, pineapple and apple slices. But be aware that some fruits, such as bananas, can cause an increase in mucus production, which may affect your sleep apnea.4 Skip bananas for a few weeks after your diagnosis or if you’re noticing a higher AHI after eating bananas to see if they’re affecting your sleep.
  • Great grilling. We know we told you what meats to avoid, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the barbecue all together. Treat yourself to a grilled chicken breast with some low-sugar barbecue sauce, a low-fat turkey sausage instead of a bratwurst, cedar-plank grilled salmon or a turkey burger with your favorite toppings.

You may be cutting back on some of your favorite snacks, treats and meals this season, but compromising your health isn’t worth the risk.

Don’t let football season fatigue you! Learn some tips on healthy sleep habits for the fall.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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