Want to Tailgate Without Sacrificing Your Fitness Plan? Yes. You. Can.

Photo courtesy of 1070 The Fan

Where I live, fall = football. Youth league, high school, college, pro–we love it all. One of the most popular Midwestern pastimes on a cool October Saturday has to be tailgating. Unfortunately, tailgating has long been associated with foods that are not waistline friendly, leading many of us to embrace the baggy sweatshirts and parkas that come with winter as a way of camouflaging the results of one too many beer-and-brat combos.

I am currently following an online weight loss program that encourages me to make healthy eating choices in order to be more fit and, of course, to lose weight, too. Indulging in tailgating bacchanalia would undermine these efforts, so I did some research and found several healthy, enjoyable alternatives to traditional tailgate staples.

Chips & Dip: Who doesn’t love a salty snack like potato chips and creamy dip, or gooey, cheesy nachos? They may taste good, but are clearly not ab-friendly. Instead, try baked tortilla chips and salsa. The chips give you that crispy, salty fix while the flavor and heat of the salsa stimulate your taste buds to help you feel satisfied. Stick to straight-up salsa without the queso if you are trying to minimize the caloric impact. Another delicious option? Veggies and dip. Sliced peppers, carrots, and celery give your mouth that crunchy, chewy sensation that helps you to feel full without packing on the calories. Just be sure to buy (or make) a low fat dip to go with it, or skip the dip altogether.

Photo by Izik

Hot Wings: A perennial tailgating favorite, without a doubt. Keep in mind that the signature of a good hot wing is the kick of the sauce, not the wing itself. To that end, try grilled chicken strips or, for easier handling, chicken kebabs, with hot sauce for dipping or to use as a marinade. You get that same heat and chicken flavor with a lot less fat.

Brats: The brat has become so closely associated with football, Saturday Night Live used to do skits featuring Bears fans surrounded by piles of brats and polish sausages. If you must have tube-shaped meat as part of your tailgate fare, opt for turkey brats or lean, all-beef hot dogs. There are several organic, all-beef hot dog varieties with half the fat of the typical dogs. Just switch your white buns for a whole wheat version and you are good to go.

Photo courtesy of Neon Tommy

Sweet Treats: Around here, a tailgate isn’t complete without a few Tupperware containers full gooey bars or fudgy brownies. Instead, whip up some fruit kebabs, skewering grapes, strawberries, melons, apples, and/or bananas and serving them with low-fat yogurt or fruit dip. Once again, food on a stick is much easier to eat while hanging out before the big game. Fruit gives you that sweet tooth fix without the heaviness of cakes or bars.

Beverages: Beer and tailgating go hand in hand for countless revelers every weekend. Choosing to celebrate without gaining weight doesn’t mean you can’t have a frosty beverage or two. A quick stroll down any grocery store beer aisle will offer you countless varieties with fewer than 100 per 12 ounce bottle–not bad considering that most sodas have more calories than that. To minimize the impact on your waistline (and to keep you clear-headed) try alternating between drinking bottles of beer and drinking bottles of water.

Clearly, it IS possible to tailgate without packing on the pounds. Follow these simple guidelines and you can actually enjoy a fall afternoon with friends at the game, instead of worrying about sabotaging your fitness plans with that third (or fourth) plate of mozzarella sticks. Here’s to healthy tailgating!