Football season is here, which means tailgating and parties. Having delicious snacks and appetizers is a must when gathering to watch your favorite football teams, but most of the time what’s offered is laden with excessive calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. You know the culprits–loaded nachos, dips, chips, burgers, wings, and sodas; not to mention alcohol. The list goes on. But party food does not have to be unhealthy. Being smart with your choices can help you avoid unnecessary calorie intake.
Hosting a “watching” party of your own is a perfect opportunity to take control of the food environment. Nachos are a perennial fan favorite, but instead of using tortilla chips as the base, why not use fresh leafy greens and convert them into a taco salad? Add a protein option such as shredded chicken, pork, or black beans and additional fresh ingredients such as diced tomato, lime, cilantro, and sliced avocado with just a sprinkle of cheese. By having the salad portion as a base and the chips as a garnish or side, you are less likely to over-indulge on the chips while still feeling satisfied taste-wise.
Instead of giant bowls of chips and crackers scattered all over the table, replace them with baked chips made from sliced zucchini or sweet potato. Add platters of fresh cut vegetables and fruit. Use reduced-fat, fat-free dairy ingredients or Greek yogurt in veggie dips. If you plan on making burgers and are using beef, try to look for the leanest choice. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh toppings such as the classic lettuce, tomato, and onion. When making wings, skip the breading and replace with a delicious marinade. Hot sauce is generally very low in calories and packs a punch of flavor and heat. Additional herbs and spices will help cut back on sodium.
If you plan on attending someone else’s tailgate party, keep in mind the following tips:
- Eat a solid breakfast. Having a balanced meal (lean protein, fiber-rich carb, healthy fat, and even some vegetables) will make you less likely to munch on empty snacks all day.
- When you arrive, skim the buffet table visually to see what’s there. Plan what to grab. Try to make your plate resemble the MyPlate guide. Go sit somewhere away from the table to enjoy your food. Lingering around the food table makes it more likely you’ll eat more than you should.
- Drink plenty of water. Steer clear of sodas or juices/punches. Make a water infusion by adding fresh fruit or vegetables such as lemon, oranges, berries, cucumber, and/or mint.
- As for alcohol, keep your intake limited. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a couple drinks before or during the game, but having more than that exceeds the limit recommended by the Dietary Guidelines (one drink for women, two drinks for men). More can really tack on empty calories.
Following these simple tips during game days will help set you up with the tools you need to stay healthy, while still having fun!
Writer: Shannon Erskine, Graduate Student, Bowling Green State University, email@example.com
Reviewers: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University, Erie County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University, Pickaway County, email@example.com