Avocado Bowl Sunday

First a correction to a popular urban myth: Super Bowl guacamole consumption does not account for 2/3 of total avocado sales for the year.  It’s more like 5%, and avocado sales during Cinco de Mayo are almost twice that.  Nevertheless, 5% is a whole lot of guacamole.  According to the Hass Avocado Board, the US will consume more than 1.2 billion pounds of avocados in 2012.  Two-thirds of those avocados are consumed in states west of the Mississippi River, which account for only 1/3 of the population.  So Westerners are eating a whole lot of avocados.

So if 5% of avocados are consumed this week alone, that’s more than 60 million pounds.  If 1/3 of us are football fans, that works out to roughly 1/2 lb guacamole per viewer.  What’s the nutrition angle on this?

Avocados are pretty healthful.  They’re considered a fruit, but are definitely higher in fat than any other fruit, about 80% of the calories (by contrast, butter and oils are 100% fat calories).  Let’s say you dip about 1 TB of guacamole on a chip.  That’s roughly 25 calories, mostly from monounsaturated fat, like olive oil.  In addition to healthy fats, avocados have significant vitamin E, potassium, folic acid and some other B vitamins, as well as fiber and a small amount of carbs.  The main problem with avocados is that they taste great, and you could end up eating a lot of guacamole without thinking about it.  If you eat that 1/2 lb per person Super Bowl Sunday ration, you’ve got about 400 calories just from the guacamole.  Given that you usually eat it with chips, you’ve just added a lot of calories to your game day.

One way to minimize the calories is to use veggie sticks to dip guacamole: celery, carrots, sweet pepper slices, broccoli, jicama, cucumbers, radishes and cauliflower all work nicely as chip substitutes.  If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, make sure you’ve got a platter of vegetable sticks surrounding the guacamole bowls.  Another strategy: cut the guacamole with other vegetables, like chopped tomatoes or scallions.

Of course, guacamole and avocados aren’t just for Super Bowl.  Use sliced avocado on sandwiches or wraps, or toss with green salad.  Guacamole or chopped avocado is great as a topping for chili or tortilla soup, or in burritos, omelets and quesadillas.  When you use avocado, you can easily cut back on cheese, saving some calories and swapping healthy fat for less healthy saturated fat.

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