Chips, dips, chili and pizza, all washed down with beer -- If ever there was a time for gluttony, the Super Bowl (search) is it.
Except ... you've been on a low-carb diet. And you've been doing sooooo well. And Feb. 1 is way too soon to break that New Year's resolution.
For the ever-growing number of carb-shunners in America, Super Bowl Sunday is a challenge. Whether watching from a bar, at a party or on your own couch, temptations in the form of icy-cold brew, gooey pizza and Cheetos will be bountiful during the all-day sports extravaganza.
But despair not, former gridiron gluttons. Relief is on the way -- in "health" food like cubed meat and vodka.
Marcus Allen, Super Bowl XVIII MVP who has eaten low-carb since his retirement from the NFL in 1998, will gather Saturday with other former pro ball players for a gastronomic challenge of sorts -- the "Ultimate Low-Carb Tailgate Party" being held in Houston (search).
"It actually makes me feel better," he said of his low-carb diet. "I feel lighter and don't feel bloated or heavy. I have a lot more energy."
The protein-packed party is being thrown by Diageo, a spirits company, that offers low-carb drink and snack recipes from NFL greats, such as "Marcus Allen's Three Pepper Beef Kabobs" and "Troy Aikman's Smirnoff Lean Martini" on Lowcarbparties.com.
With even brawny sports stars saying no to bread and beer, Jason Morris of Hubbardston, Mass., said he can't believe how mainstream low-carbing has become.
Morris, 28, has joined the masses and lost 25 pounds following the South Beach Diet. However, he said trying to curb food intake during football's biggest event is like trying to catch a Hail Mary.
"After Thanksgiving, at least for a guy in his 20s, the Super Bowl is probably the day you eat the worst, in terms of carbs, the pizza, snacks, chips. It'll be tough."
Lucky for sports fans who adhere to Atkins and other low-carb programs, the diet is heavy on meat, protein and fat, so food like buffalo wings, blue cheese, celery and burgers without the bun are all fair game.
At Morris' Super Bowl party, he'll offer guests carb-friendly choices like pepperoni and cheese. But he recognizes not everyone is willing to eschew the culinary indulgences associated with football, and will also provide traditional favorites like pizza and beer.
But for football fan Andrew Krucoff, dieters who insist on low-carb snacks -- especially new low-carb beer -- aren't even welcome to watch the game with him.
"If you walk into my Super Bowl party carrying low-carb beer you will be promptly covered in popcorn, dry cereal, bagels, pretzels, and bud tall boys," Krucoff said in an e-mail interview.
For those who can't imagine what their carb-avoiding pals would eat, but who'd be happy to provide diet-friendly snacks, Atkins has created a Super Bowl menu with suggestions like deviled-egg coleslaw and walnut blondies.
But even some low-carb converts don't plan to stick to the diet.
“I’m going to let it go,” said Matthew Kozlowski, an Atkins dieter who lives in Houston, Texas. “In order to be on Atkins, you have to stay under 22 carbs a day, which is funny because a can of Coke pretty much blows a whole day.”
Asked what he plans to eat on Super Bowl Sunday Kozlowski said: "Oh man, anything. We’re having a Super Bowl party and people are bringing chips, desserts and everything."
Even though Allen's culinary game plan is low-carb, he doesn't support going to extremes.
"You gotta treat yourself, it's a celebration," he said. "This is not something you have every day, it's the Super Bowl. It's OK one day or two days out of the year to enjoy yourself. If not, what's the point of living?"
Colette Heimowitz, vice president of education and research for Atkins Nutritionals, isn't so keen on this reasoning and said the real joys of the day aren't found on a plate.
"A birthday comes once a year. Holidays come once a year. There's always an excuse and if we keep on giving into an excuse we'll never attain our goal," she said. "You have to ask yourself, are you there to enjoy the game and be with your friends or are you there to pig out?"
Morris said even with all the tasty temptations on Sunday, chips aren't his main concern.
"I'm from New England and a Patriots fan," he said, "so there will be things to distract me."