Kick-off a Healthier Tailgate

Kick-off a Healthier Tailgate

Publish Date May 11, 2023 3 Minute Read
Author Shari Mermelstein, RDN, LDN

Football season is making its return, and whether you’re at the stadium or watching the game from home, the thrilling action on the gridiron makes for a perfect excuse to gather friends and family for a fun-filled tailgate with delicious food.

Typical pregame tailgate food includes beef burgers, buffalo chicken dip, chips, sweet treats, adult beverages and soda. While these can all have a place on your plate (or in your cup), there are simple swaps and substitutes you can make to add a nutritious boost, without sacrificing tradition or taste.

Score with Better-for-You Beverages

Beer and other spirits can add “empty calories” (calories without essential nutrients) or reduce your resolve not to overindulge on food.

Set yourself up for success with these tips:

  • Choose fruit-infused water or mocktails.
  • If consuming alcohol, limit to 1 or 2 (12 oz.) beverages.
  • Alternate alcoholic beverages with non-calorie beverages, such as unsweetened water or seltzer to stay hydrated.
  • Choose calorie-free mixers, such as club soda, for cocktails.

Game Plan for Tailgate Food

We’ve got convenient product recommendations and time-saving tips to help you bring healthier options to your next tailgate. You’ll be a fan favorite since your efforts are sure to be appreciated and enjoyed by others.

Here are some delicious options for your tailgate playbook to add fiber, vitamins and minerals while reducing fat, sodium and added sugars:

  • Choose leaner grilled proteins, such as skinless, boneless chicken breast and pork tenderloins. Veggie, bean or salmon burgers are also a good substitute for beef…and swap out the white sandwich buns in favor of whole grain.
  • For nachos, skip the ground meat or replace half with mushrooms, then add no-salt-added or low-sodium canned beans. Replace full-fat sour cream with non- or low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits can add color, crunch and flavor. Wash and slice them yourself or grab pre-cut versions from your Produce department. Enjoy as a crudité or slide onto skewers. You can even marinate and season with herbs for kabobs.
  • Replace potato chips and pretzels with popcorn, whole grain tortilla chips, or lower sodium or unsalted nuts.
  • Trade cheesy dips and heavy mayo side salads for guacamole, hummus or salsa.
  • Serve sweet treats in smaller portions like bite-sized brownies, or swap for fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate hummus.

More Smart Plays for Game Day

  • Avoid skipping a meal before the festivities. Have a small snack, like a handful of nuts, yogurt or a piece of fruit prior to tailgate time.
  • Don't swear off traditional fare completely. Instead, focus on moderation and choose 1 or 2 indulgences balanced with fruits and vegetables.
  • Proper portion size is key. Place foods on a plate instead of standing over the table or eating out of the common bowl or bag.

Looking for additional guidance beyond the tailgate?

Let us support your health journey further with more healthy living advice and game day inspiration. Or meet with a registered dietitian for personalized nutrition guidance.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.