Tailgate Like a Pro: Tips & Tricks for a Healthier Football Season
August 25, 2022
Summer is coming to a close and fall is right around the corner! The weather will begin to cool, pumpkin flavored everything will be hitting grocery stores and restaurants, and the holidays will arrive before we know it. For those of us here in the United States, the end of summer most prominently signals the beginning of American football! Did you know that more than 25 million people watch football? The activities surrounding football are commonly referred to as tailgating and they can occur outside of stadiums, in homes, or even at local restaurants and venues.
Being a part of the action is fun and exciting and a great way to gather with family and friends. As with all gatherings, food can be a fairly central part of the activity. But tailgates and stadiums aren’t necessarily known for traditionally having the most healthy food choices; and this can be problematic for those of us trying to lose weight or maintain healthy lifestyle choices. The good news is that “problematic” doesn’t mean the same thing as “impossible.” You CAN take part in the activities and celebrations of football season without sabotaging your healthy goals! We’re going to share our best tips, tricks, and products for keeping football season both fun and healthy!
You’ve probably heard it since a young age and still hear it from your doctor today, but drink more water! Hydrate to support a body that is healthy and functioning at its full potential. This is true every day of the year, but especially while tailgating. Whether you’re consuming adult beverages or not, there are plenty of other reasons to stay hydrated while cheering on your favorite team. Most people tailgate outside, and the early months of football are still hot and drying. Many tailgate foods include those that have been heavily processed (like cookies and packaged sweets) and salty snacks (such as potato chips and chicken tenders). Salt, in moderate amounts, is necessary for the body. Too much salt, however, can be dehydrating. Water is your way to combat some of the unwanted effects of too much salt such as bloating and water retention. So, be sure water has a presence among the beverages found at your tailgate this year!
In addition to staying hydrated, what you eat will play a big role in how you feel, how much weight you lose, whether you maintain your weight, and more. And we get it - most tailgates aren’t going to have a “build your own salad bar” filled with fresh cut produce and lean cuts of steak and free-range chicken breast…and that’s okay! Just because your food spread doesn’t look like the inside of a Whole Foods grocery store doesn’t mean there aren’t still ways to make healthier food choices. An easy way to ensure you’ve got some healthy grub within reach is to bring a fruit and vegetable platter to your tailgate. And if you want to go the extra nine yards, be sure to bring a healthier dressing or dip than your traditional full fat ranch and blue cheese. Bolthouse Farms and Walden Farms both have tons of dressing and dip options that are slimmed down versions of your favorites.
Burgers are among the most popular foods for grilling and tailgating. And we’re here to tell you that there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a burger at a tailgate and keep it healthy, too! Here are some ways to build a better burger:
- “Go naked.” Kick the bun to the curb and just have your patty on a plate. Cut it up and mix it into a “topping salad” or pile everything like you normally would on top and just eat it like that
- Lettuce Wraps. Swap the bun for a lettuce wrap instead. Lettuce wraps are simple! Take two leaves of lettuce (this works well with iceberg, romaine, or even cabbage) and place them on a plate, creating a small amount of overlap on the bottom. Place the burger patty in the center and pile your favorite condiments and toppings on top. Fold the lettuce over the top and enjoy the same way you would with a bun.
- Bowls. This one’s as easy as it sounds! Chop up your burger patty and toppings and place them in a bowl. Mix with your favorite condiments and top with shredded cheese. Like a salad, but so much more fun!
Whether you choose a burger or not, chances are you’ll be eating something that typically comes with condiments. Ketchup is a fan-favorite, but often comes packed with hidden sugars that can cause cravings and headaches and hinder weight loss. Opt for low-sugar or no sugar varieties whenever possible to reduce calories and cravings! Other condiments that we love that won’t hinder your goals are:
- Guacamole - known mostly as a chip dip, but also works well as a topping for burgers and as a veggie dip!
- Mustard - often considered the “opposite” or “other half” of ketchup, one serving of this condiment typically contains little to no calories and no added sugars.
- Salsa - another great option for enjoying on a burger or with chips!
- Light dressings and dips - Bolthouse Farms and Walden Farms carry a large variety of lightened up dressings and dips.
Check out the MRC Cookbook (available in centers and through the Metabolic Web Store) for more fun, fresh condiment and topping recipes!
No tailgate is complete without a bowl of chips! These small crunchy morsels fit so perfectly in the hand - and also make for a great low-impact and low-mess option to throw at the TV when things don’t go exactly as planned with your team! The problem with traditional potato chips (even the “lower fat” varieties)? They are typically deep fried, packed full of carbs, and loaded with sodium. Carbohydrates are not unhealthy, but too many carbohydrates can be too much of a bad thing - especially for those of us trying to lose weight. Swapping out chips for healthier snacks is an easy way to reduce the amount of carbohydrates and sodium you intake while tailgating. Some of our favorite swaps include:
- Zesty Nacho Crisps - these protein packed chips deliver a spicy zing and 12g of protein per serving. They give you the crunch of chips with the added benefit of feeling fuller longer (helping to make you feel less likely to want to keep coming back to the party spread and overeating)! You can get Zesty Nacho Crisps from any MRC office or order them directly through the online Metabolic Web Store.
- Sweet potato chips - are sweet potatoes still a carb? Yes, they are. Are they also packed full of more vitamins (such as Vitamin A) and lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes? Also, yes. If you’ve just gotta have chips, then we recommend finding (or baking) sweet potato chips to get the most out of your snack!
- Veggie Chips - the possibilities are plenty when it comes to creating chips from other vegetables. Some of our favorites to make in the oven or air fryer are made from zucchini, kale, or even radishes!
- Baked tortilla chips - this one is so simple. Take a low calorie tortilla and cut it into wedges. Spray the wedges with cooking spray and bake in an oven at 350 degrees F for 2-5 minutes, until crispy. Sprinkle with sea salt, ranch powder, or even a little bit of stevia and sugar for a sweeter chip!
- Air popped popcorn - this one’s an easy way for enjoying “crunch” without all the carbs. Many stores sell air-popped popcorn out of a bag (look for unflavored or lightly salted varieties that don’t have any added fast or oils) or you can easily make your own at home!
- Halved mini-bell peppers or carrot chips - for those looking for the crunch factor, try looking at foods that live outside of the potato chip realm. Mini bell peppers cut in half or carrot chips (many grocery stores sell these near the baby carrots in the produce section) are two healthy options that provide as much crunch as a traditional potato chip (and sometimes even hold more dips than chips can, too)!
Headed to an away game or an unknown tailgate where you’re not certain of what the spread might look like? Be sure to pack a few protein bars and drinks so you’re never caught off guard and left without any healthy options. Protein bars like MRC’s Assortment Pack Bars are a great, portable option for a meal or snack on the go that are chocked full of hunger-fighting protein. For an extra dose of nutrition, be sure to pack your Super Fruit & Vegetable Drink Mix. This powdered drink easily mixes into water or other liquids while packing 10 half-cup servings of fruit and vegetables in every scoop! Now that’s a lot of nutritious goodness!
Lastly, this wouldn’t be an article about tailgating if it didn’t mention adult beverages. Having a good time doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all alcohol. Choosing to drink or not drink is a highly personal decision and one that only you can make for yourself. There are many negative effects that alcohol can have on the body. In terms of eating healthy and losing weight, the biggest downside are the calories and carbs. If you’re drinking beer, lean into lighter, lower-calorie options. Always do a full glass of water between every drink - this not only helps to keep you hydrated, but can also help you consume less overall. For those looking for ways to cut back on the alcohol carbs and calories (or simply cut back on consuming alcohol in general), we offer up “mocktails.” A play on “cocktails” these alcohol-free variations mimic the flavors and textures of their adult counterparts, without all of the calories and carbs! Here are three of our favorite mocktails that are perfect for game day:
There you have it! Our top tips and tricks for staying “in the game” without sacrificing your health, wellness, and weight loss goals! Enjoy! We’re rooting for YOU this season - and maybe even your teams (as long as they aren’t playing against ours)!