Are you ready for some football?

tailgating_0816 Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year; the colors, cooler weather, fall-inspired food, refreshing smells, and of course football.  Game day used to mean giving up on a healthy diet for the entire day and eating fattening, calorie-laden foods.

Tailgating is another popular football experience that is all about creating new memories with family and friends, but often revolves around food to enhance the experience. You might even consider “homegating” if you are hosting a football party at home. Chicken wings, nachos, cheese — tailgating food can be heavy, but you don’t have to throw your healthy lifestyle out the window while tailgating. Try tackling some of these healthy touchdown-worthy tips and alternatives without a personal foul to your health:

  1. Go to your tailgate with a plan in mind. Many calories are consumed while mindlessly munching away, watching the game and talking with friends and family. If you know you’re an out-of-control grazer, allow yourself to fill a small plate and then situate yourself away from the food to reduce temptation. By eating your food from small serving dishes, you’ll think twice about getting that second helping, while controlling your caloric intake.
  2. Some people may find that hunger is the primary motivation to eat at a tailgate party. Arriving satiated may be a good way to improve self-control. If this is you, eat a snack or meal before you go, focusing on lean protein; some healthy fats, such as nuts; and drink plenty of water to avoid being dehydrated, which could also lead to hunger.
  3. Unless you’re one of those standing (and possibly yelling) at the television during the entire game, then you probably are not moving much during the game. Find ways to be more active! Start a game of touch football during the pregame and/or half-time. Grab a friend and go for a walk! Get away from the food and enjoy the refreshing fall weather.
  4. Before diving in, survey your options and find the healthy choices. If the fruit and vegetable trays leave you less than enthused, other options include a deli tray, turkey or veggie burgers, a small bowl of chili (sans cheese or sour cream), or a hearty soup or stew. Try this recipe for Mila Soup!
  5. Be a team player and contribute to the party! Bring a delicious guilt-free main course or side dish that both you and other guests will enjoy. This is especially helpful if you have food sensitivities or allergies.
    • Instead of French fries or chips, bring some Greens topped baked potatoes.
    • Choose chicken kabobs with veggies over sodium-laden wings. If you must have your chicken wings, grill or bake them using a dry rub with lemon or lime juice and seasonings. As an alternative twist to the typical dip and glaze, you can also create your own honey mustard recipe.
    • Create some sliders with ground turkey or lean beef instead of regular size burger patties.
    • Use whole wheat buns and bring fixings such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, and mustard.
    • Substitute Greek yogurt in recipes that call for mayonnaise or sour cream.
    • Create a chili full of healthy beans, vegetables, and chicken or lean beef.
    • Create some stuffed bell peppers or make individual pizzas packed with vegetables on whole wheat crust.
    • The opportunities are endless!
  6. Choose your dips and sides wisely — skip the basic ranch dip and use guacamole, hummus or salsa for your vegetables. Stick with a fall theme and try an artichoke or pumpkin dip. For different sides, try a slaw made of Brussels sprouts and a black bean corn salad. Bake your own pita or kale chips, or try baked sweet potato fries.
  7. You’ve made it this far; don’t blow it on dessert! Get creative and dip strawberries in dark chocolate. You can then use white chocolate to draw seams and call them mini footballs. Create fruit skewers using your team colors.  Use spiced pumpkin or bake some fresh fall apples.
  8. What about alcohol? Sometimes, nothing sounds better than wings and your favorite fall beer or cider. However, alcohol not only contributes to extra calories, but it lowers inhibitions and dehydrates your body. If you do choose to drink alcohol, use club soda as a mixer instead of sugary juices or syrups. Pace yourself and alternate with plenty of plain or fruit-infused water to avoid dehydration. Don’t let alcohol derail all your hard work and ruin your game plan! Find some delicious drinks and smoothies at
  9. Drink a 360 Complete Shake before arriving at the party to help you feel full beforehand, and help you avoid overeating.

Remember, living a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to deprive yourself.  If you’re hosting the tailgate, create your own recipes so no one knows they are getting healthier options.  If you’re a spectator, volunteer to bring a dish or two! Small changes and adjustments can go a long way toward nourishing your body. Enjoy your food while cheering on your team.


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