10 Easy Swaps to Make Your Tailgate Healthier

It’s not easy to stay healthy during tailgate season, but these simple tips will make it a whole lot easier

Shutterstock / Sean Locke Photography

10 Easy Swaps to Make Your Tailgate Healthier

Shutterstock / Sean Locke Photography

For football fans, this is the happiest time of the year. Not only for the game-winning rush, but also for the tailgating parties that come beforehand. Nothing beats chowing down on game-time grub. Chips, dips, burgers, ribs — eat too many of those sauced-up pulled pork sandwiches and fried Oreos, and you could be out for the count before the season is over. You worked all summer on your swimsuit figure, but all it takes is any given Sunday full of food to wreck it all. If you want to make it through the day, let alone season, you might want to reevaluate your tailgating menu

Break the Fast

Eat Breakfast. How can eating more be healthy for you? Most people skip breakfast when they know they have a whole day of eating ahead of them. Bad call. Eat a healthy and filling breakfast so you can control your portions during tailgating without feeling like you’re depriving yourself. 

Bring on the Buffalo

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Replace Buffalo chicken wings with Buffalo cauliflower bites. They pack the same flavorful, spicy punch and have way fewer calories than fried chicken. Cauliflower is so versatile; it can really take on new flavors every time you make it. Batter and bake cauliflower florets, then coat with hot sauce and bake again. Serve with a side of yogurt gorgonzola dressing

Chill Out

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Lighten up your load with a low-cal version of chili that is made by swapping out ground beef for lean ground turkey. The addition of chipotle peppers helps to create complex layers of flavor that will have your guests gushing over the fact that this is actually good for them. Make it in a slow cooker the night before — it’s not only healthy, it’s also easy. 

Link Out

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Street-style subs are a fun and easy-to-eat addition to your tailgating menu. Create a healthier version of a sausage and pepper hero by using Italian style turkey sausage links. Sauté onions, peppers, and chopped tomatoes in olive oil and a bit of sea salt for added flavor and crunchy texture. Whole-wheat hoagie rolls bring it all together for easy — and delicious — eating on the go. 

Rethink Your Drink

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It’s football Sunday, so chances are a cocktail or two is on the lineup. For a healthier tailgating session, stay away from sugary mixers and drinks like boozy punches, margaritas, and heavy beers and stouts. Choose lighter options like light beer or wine and vodka spritzers. And remember to drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you have to help you stay hydrated and feel full

Swap Your Seat for a Game

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Don’t just sit in your lawn chair talking about football. Actually play some! You can even catch a cornhole game or play hide-and-go-seek. Halftime is the perfect time to get in some kind of activity. Whatever you have to do to move around and burn off some of the calories you’re consuming, do it.

Swap Your Burger Style

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Instead of full sized burgers, make a batch of sliders using whole-wheat rolls and lean ground beef or turkey. Top them with a healthy slaw of shredded carrots and cabbage tossed in a dressing of nonfat plain yogurt and apple cider vinegar. 

Turn Your Grill Into a Pizza Oven

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Load up your Weber with charcoal briquettes, light them up, drop a pizza stone on them, and close the lid. Let the stone get nice and hot and you’ve just created a makeshift pizza oven out of your flatbed. Grill up homemade pizzas topped with fresh tomato sauce, vegetables, and a small helping of cheese and lean meats and you’ve got a masterpiece. At the end of the day, homemade pizza is always better 

When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

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Make your spinach and artichoke dip lighter by swapping out mayo for nonfat Greek yogurt and reduced-fat cream cheese. Mix two cups of yogurt with one cup of cream cheese. Then add artichoke hearts, frozen spinach, garlic cloves, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and diced jalapeños to taste.  This version has all the creaminess of the original without the calories and a whole lot more kick. Whole-grain tortilla chips or carrots are the perfect dipping vessel.

Wing It

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If you’ve got to have wings, then grill them instead of frying them — or, better yet, roast them. Chicken wings have a higher ratio of skin to meat than any other cut of chicken. So grilling or roasting them will result in a caramelized skin that renders the fat for layers of flavor. Add all the hot sauce you can take — cayenne pepper helps boost metabolism