6 Ingredients for a Healthy Tailgate

Football season is here and that means game-day viewing parties and tailgates full of chips, dip, wings, and beer. If you indulge in all those treats, you may end up packing on the pounds. So before you have to unbuckle the belt a notch or two, make sure you have these six ingredients on your spread for a healthy tailgate.

Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables

The fall season is filled with nutritious and delicious produce, including pears, apples, winter squash, and pumpkins. Add cubes of sweet potatoes or butternut squash to your chili and instead of traditional potato or corn chips, make a batch of apple chips sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s easier than you think: Slice apples thinly, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake for an hour at 200 degrees F.

Lean Protein

Use lean beef, skinless, boneless chicken breast, ground turkey breast, and vegetarian proteins like beans and tofu to keep the calories and saturated fat on the lower end. Make a veggie bean chili, grilled chicken kebabs, or turkey sloppy Joes in place of the classic tailgating dishes. Or go fancy and serve sliced sirloin steak, which will certainly be a crowd pleaser!

Interactive Foods

In-shell pistachios and edamame pods are both full of nutrients and will take longer to eat since they require some work on your part. That means you’ll eat more slowly and register what you’re eating before you eat too much.

Hydrating Foods and Beverages

Party foods can often be salty, so make sure to wash them down with water and other low-calorie beverages like diet soda, iced tea, or light beer. Alcoholic cocktails and wine are also ok in moderation, but keep in mind they can be dehydrating and add unwanted calories. And when it comes to hydration, don’t forget about certain foods like bell peppers, oranges, and cucumbers, which have a high water content.

Lightened-up Sweets

No party is complete without a sweet treat! Save some room and keep calories in check with poached pears, dark chocolate s’moress’mores, and the perfect pumpkin pie.

Move it, move it!

To balance out all the good eats, get up and move! Dance during the halftime show, throw around your own football, or go for a walk around the block to get your blood flowing and your metabolism going.


Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary nutrition expert. She has extensive experience as a recipe developer, writer, editor, and speaker. She is the co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Barron’s, 2011), past columnist for the Culinary Corner column in Today’s Dietitian Magazine, and maintains a popular blog at JessicaLevinson.com. Jessica is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and various Dietetic Practice Groups of the AND, including Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Dietitians in Business and Communications. Follow her out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Items of Interest

September 3, 2014 Lifestyle Advice