Football is in full swing this time of year… and with football comes tailgating! Whether you throw your own tailgate or attended someone else’s, it can be hard to stick to a healthy diet when surrounded with greasy burgers and homemade baked goods. The good news is that there’s no need to sacrifice your favorite flavors. There are ways you can still eat healthy, while reducing calories, sugar, and saturated (unhealthy) fat.
Bring Your Own Dish
Most people will gladly welcome more food at a tailgate. By bringing your own dish, you are ensuring that you have at least one healthy food to eat. This is especially great for those who have dietary restrictions and/or allergies. Try to avoid dishes that need to be refrigerated and remember to use containers you can throw away.
Choosing leaner cuts of meat will help to reduce calories and saturated (unhealthy) fat. Substitute chicken breasts for chicken thighs. Use 93% lean ground beef or turkey instead of ground round beef. If wings are a must have, try a dry rubbed, grilled wing recipe, like this one. As always, watch your portion size. One portion of lean meat should be about the size of a deck of cards.
Watch the Fixings
Sauces, cheeses, and gigantic buns, oh my! This is where most people tend to really pack on the extra calories. Substitute whole grain buns for white buns. Whole grain buns are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Also, try to aim for hamburger buns that are about the size of a CD or around 80-150 calories per bun. Some of the larger buns can have up to 300 calories! Forgo the mayonnaise and stick to ketchup and mustard. Try to load up on low calorie toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions for burgers. When it comes to wings, ditch the ranch and blue cheese and grab some extra carrots and celery. If you can’t live without the ranch or blue cheese, stick to a thumb-size portion.
In the land of potato salad, chips, and pretzels, it’s hard to find the “healthy” option. A good rule of thumb is to load up half your plate with salad, fruit, and/or vegetables. Allow ¼ of your plate to be lean meat and the other ¼ can have some traditional snack items. It’s all about moderation. If you go to the tailgate thinking “I will not have one single cookie or chip”, then you will probably end up caving in and having much more than you intended. Instead, go to the tailgate knowing you will fill up on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and salad. And that you will allow yourself to have a small portion of “snack” food.
Choose Your Beverage Wisely
Alcoholic drinks tend to be higher in calories and essentially offer no nutritional value. However, if you do plan to drink, there are some healthier options. Pre-made mixers (i.e. pina colada, bloody Mary, margarita) are often a source of unwanted calories and sugar. Try to avoid them. Stick to lighter options that combine only fresh juices with a spirit. Alternatively, light beer is another option. Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks is a great way to stay hydrated and to reduce the amount of extra calories you consume.