How To Have a Healthy Tailgate
The weather is cooling down, the leaves are starting to change, and school has started up again. All of those things are signs of fall, but also something much more exciting: Football season! Football means a lot of things: long-time rivalries, thousands of people in their team colors, and tailgating to name a few. Unfortunately, this time of year usually means weight gain for many of us. It doesn’t take much to gain 5, 10, even 20 pounds over the next few months. How do we enjoy tailgating and football parties without packing on the pounds?
Healthy tailgating is more than just staying away from the food table altogether. There are all kinds of options as long as you plan ahead. Here are some easy tips to avoid going up a pants size by New Year’s:
1. Eat a healthy breakfast. Skipping breakfast can set you up for binging on those not-so-healthy tailgating options staring you in the face. Start off your day right with a delicious mix of protein, carbs, and fiber. Try oatmeal or greek yogurt with fruit and walnuts. If you make good meal choices in the morning, it can give you more energy and satisfy your appetite longer to help you avoid the chips and dip, chicken wings, and cookies that won’t be scoring any points with your waistline.
2. Drink responsibly. If you are going to have an adult beverage or two, stay away from high calorie soda, juices, and mixers. You can easily consume hundreds of calories at a time with things like margaritas, jungle juice, and tailgate punch. An 8 ounce Lime-a-Rita contains 220 calories a pop! So if you are going to have a drink, stick with light beer or mix your liquor with flavored water, or club soda. Remember to drink a glass of water per alcoholic drink so you stay hydrated and feel good enough in the morning that you don’t have to skip your workout. And try to set a limit of one or two. If you drink more than that, you may lower your inhibitions and show up at that food table again.
3. Bring your own appetizer. This can be much more exciting than a veggie tray, although that may be a good option if you’re short on time. The trick is bringing something healthy that everyone loves. Make a delicious low-fat buffalo chicken dip or teriyaki turkey meatballs and you’re in the red zone. No one needs to know they are eating the low-fat option. If you want to bring veggies and dip, ditch the high fat ranch dip and try a greek yogurt-based ranch instead. They won’t even be able to tell the difference.
The best advice I have for you is to plan ahead. When you fail to plan, plan to fail.
Erica Jackson, MS, RD, LMNT, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian with CHI Health.