Tailgating season is here. Although various meats, creamy dips and other tasty finger foods can hit the spot while on game days, the typical tailgating fare can be laden with undesirable fats, high sugar, and excessive calories. According to statistics, the average American can consume more than 1,000 additional calories in just four or five hours while watching a game. Over indulging until you feel like your stomach was tackled by a 300 pound lineman is no way to fuel up!
If you are asked to bring a dish for a tailgate party or you are hosting an event, some quick and easy changes to a traditional game day menu lineup can help ensure a win for everyone.
Drinks: Choose non-calorie beverages such as water, sparkling water, or iced tea instead of soda. This applies to alcoholic beverages as well. Drink them sparingly and choose mixers such as club soda or seltzer water that won’t add to the calories and spike the sugar content.
Snacks: Skip the traditional calorie-heavy chip and dip combo. Instead, offer fresh cut fruit (serve as a kabob so it’s mess-free), mixed pre-cut veggies with protein-packed yogurt dip or air popped popcorn for a crunch. Opt for baked chips or whole grain crackers to use with fresh salsa and low fat cheese.
Side dishes: Without adequate refrigeration, be cautious of mayo-based potato or pasta salads. Instead, mix together a variety of colorful vegetables with whole wheat noodles and toss with an oil/vinegar dressing to create a fiber-full salad that won’t overthrow your calorie goals.
Meats/entree: The typical hamburger is about 250 calories. Add cheese and that bumps it up to 370, and a bun brings the total to 520 calories. Choose lean patties or offer a vegetable-based protein option such as black bean burger. Hot dogs can be deceiving and can derail your nutrition goals because they are often loaded with sodium, nitrates and fat. And, what about those chicken wings with the delicious hot sauce? Instead of serving them fried and with the skin on, choose grilled or baked skinless chicken tenders and keep the dip on the side.
In addition to planning your menu, mindful eating strategies are vital and can help you stay on track. First, avoid going to the game hungry. Eat a small meal earlier in the day to avoid being too hungry and overeating later in the day. Next, try taking a timeout before you take a second helping. Walk away from the food table to give your body a break after eating.
Molly Tevis is an outpatient dietitian at St. Luke’s Meridian.