How to Survive Game Day with Ulcerative Colitis

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Really this could be “how to survive any event in which normal people get to shovel food into their mouths.” Barbeques, potlucks, tail-gating, game-day celebrations, and birthday parties all come to mind.

There are two levels of surviving these types of situations. First is the psychological. There is so much food and lots of variety and it’s all in front of you. The visual impact can be hard because you know you can’t have any of it. You can feel alienated and like a party downer. Eating brings you closer to people and makes you feel like a part of the crowd. I often feel out of sorts and my hands keep fluttering around because they don’t know what to do with themselves.

But even when you have your own game day food, there is also a physical level. I don’t know about other people with UC, but for me, snacking and overeating (heck even just eating until I’m full) is bad for me. It usually involves me ending up on my bed or the floor curled up in a ball. That’s not fun. When people around you keep reaching for food, the natural tendency is to reach with them. I have to put myself on a short leash by placing everything I’m going to eat on a plate and making a pact with myself that I will not go back for more. I also try to eat very slowly and have water that I can continually reach for and drink when all the food on my plate is gone. These little things help me to control myself.

The best way to beat the psychological issues is to make sure you are prepared. For Monday’s game (Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes) I prepared my own smorgasbord of food.

First, for the center piece, were the essential game day wings.

the center piece of any game day: wings
The center piece of any game day: wings

I chose to do Mango and Habanero Wings, because I like things spicy. I suggest making the sauce on a different day. Cutting up the fresh mangos takes time. If you want to slash more time you can use frozen mangos instead. Also, I will be adding more habaneros next time I make these. They were spicy enough for my family but I would like a little more heat. The good thing about this recipe is that it makes a lot of sauce. I cooked three pounds of wings and I still have a lot of sauce left over (probably enough for three more pounds).

magno habanero wings
Mango Habanero Wings

You can’t have game day food without ranch dip. This Ranch-Onion Dip has cashews, dripped SCD yogurt (I wanted some probiotics in there to promote digestion of all the game day food), parsley, shallots, garlic, lemon juice, dried parsley and chives, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. It came out like a mix between ranch dip and french-onion dip. Ranch dip always makes people more inclined to eat their veggies too, which is always good (especially with this homemade version).

ranch-onion dip
Ranch-Onion Dip

I also made the Artichoke and Jalapeño Cheese Dip from a past post (because it’s good, is game day food at its best, and my dad demanded it).

artichoke and jalapeño cheese dip
Artichoke and Jalapeño Cheese Dip

I included some butternut squash fries as well. I’ve provided a recipe for the Mango Habanero Wings and Ranch-Onion Dip but I didn’t really think to do that for the fries. I just kind of make them and don’t consider them a recipe. But I will give you a few tips.

With butternut squash, it is easiest if you use only the long stem part for the fries rather than the bulb. Try to cut them up as evenly as possible and make them twice as big as you want them to turn out because they will shrink. This is the part I always forget. My fries always come out really tiny.

You also want to add a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt and lay them out on paper towels for thirty minutes before you bake them. Excess moisture will seep out, making them easier to bake. Mix with some high heat oil but do not, and I repeat DO NOT, add more salt before you bake your fries. If you do they will turn out extremely salty, to the point where they will be inedible. Season them after they are done baking with whatever you want (seasoned salt, smoked paprika, ranch seasoning, curry, etc.).

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, turning every ten minutes until they reach the consistency you like best in your fries (moist and slightly brown, dry and crisp, or extra crispy). I always run out of patience, which is why I don’t make them very often.

Butternut Squash Fries
Butternut Squash Fries

Another demand from my family was bacon wrapped dates. These are the least time intensive, easiest side dish ever. Which is also why I did not think to provide a recipe. But again I’ll break down the image. These are Medjool dates. There is no added sugar in them but they taste like a desert. You have to take the pit out, but once you do (just squeeze it out), wrap it in 1/2 a slice of bacon and stick a tooth pick in. I always change the temperature of the oven based on if I’m baking other things along with the dates. 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes works well. Just cook them until the bacon is done and if you like, a little longer to get a candy-like glaze on the bottom. I often have to take them out briefly and transfer them to another baking sheet because the other one will start smoking from all the bacon grease.

bacon wrapped dates
Bacon Wrapped Dates

I made some cheddar crackers for me to dip into the Artichoke and Jalapeño Cheese Dip. I got the recipe from Sandra Ramacher’s “Healing Foods: Cooking for Celiacs, Colitis, Crohn’s and IBS”. The honey mustard sauce is also from her book.

cheddar crackers
Cheddar Crackers

Last, but not least, I served some baby carrots and sliced cucumbers as dipping sides. This selection provides me a range of options. Doing so gives me the best context for easy participation while making sure that my health is not at risk. If I’m being honest, I still have a lot of work to do in the control department. I’m getting better but I still usually eat too much and have to suffer the consequences. That is the only disadvantage for providing yourself with lots of options.

I know this post is a little different from others but I hope you still enjoyed it. First, I did not take pictures of the steps involved, just the finished products. Why do you ask? Well, I’m not going to lie, preparing for any event where you have to make all the food takes time, planning, and it makes you tired. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. But for me it is. Every time I have given up and decided not to try, I always end up regretting it. I get hungry and am surrounded by food I can’t eat, which turns me into a grumpy old man. I also feel separated from everyone else, in a bubble by myself.

Here are the recipes for the Mango and Habanero Wings and the Ranch-Onion Dip. I hope you enjoy them for whatever situation you have to survive!

[kindred-recipe id=”2723″ title=”Mango Habanero Chicken Wings”]

[kindred-recipe id=”2724″ title=”Ranch-Onion Dip”]

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