Fall is here, and it’s time to huddle up to prepare your tailgate plans for football season—no need to scramble at home or while away. Health and nutrition can be part of your plans while enjoying delicious pre-game delights. Traditionally your tailgate may include oily snack chips, fatty meats, and dipping sauces galore. Those choices week after week can lead to cholesterol, a waxy substance building up and causing blockages affecting our blood flow and heart health. Another health risk is high levels of sodium which can make our hearts work harder than they have to and can raise your blood pressure. The recommended amount of sodium is no more than 2300 mg per day unless otherwise prescribed by your healthcare provider. Packaged and processed foods have high amounts of salt; flip over the package and read the nutrition facts panel. Check out serving sizes, and compare that to how many servings you plan to consume, along with the grams of fat and sodium in each serving.
So how can you score a winning touchdown with your tailgate for health that is a crowd pleaser? Plan and consider menu items you can swap out while not sacrificing flavor. When grilling burgers, choose lean meat, which means they are 10g of fat or less in total fat and less than 4.5g or less in saturated fat. Keep the burger size in mind, 3-4 oz patties in place of larger burgers that can be your entire protein need for the day. Switch it up by grilling turkey or chicken sliders which help control the fat and portion size. In place of gooey wings and sauces, try grilled chicken breasts stacked with veggies to give your heart health a boost and fiber to keep you full during the game. In place of mayo-based side salads, keep the grill going to make veggie kebobs. If you are getting pizza delivery, skip the higher-fat meats like sausage and pepperoni, which also contain higher amounts of sodium. Most do not get the veggies they need each day; adding veggies to pizza is an easy way to sneak in color and variety while meeting daily requirements. If cooking ahead and preparing a big batch of chili, try using lean beef, turkey, or even chicken. Beans are a great source of fiber which helps decrease our cholesterol, fill us up, and provide protein. Swap out higher fat protein sources or add additional beans to existing recipes. During a tailgate, everyone enjoys a good crunch, trade out those salty oily potato chips for baked chips and salsa or pita chips with hummus. Before heading into the game, keep your energy high with a boost of natural sugar from fruit. Creating a fruit tray or kebobs will keep your tailgate crew enjoying the rainbow of color while reaping the health benefits of healthy skin, immunity, and much more. Tailgating is all about fueling with the right stuff, including what you are drinking. One last tip is to swap those sugar-sweetened beverages with fruit and herb water prepared the night before. Examples include pineapple and thyme, orange and tangerine, sage, and blackberry. Go Team!