Healthy Tailgating Options

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By: Sammy Cusimano

Football season is upon us! All the seasonal changes that Fall brings are here in full effect. Cooler weather, holiday decorations, festivals and outdoor activities are kicking into gear, and this year, you can stay one step ahead of the extra calories while out enjoying the tailgating experience as you root for your favorite team.

Louisianans have passions for many things, but two of the most prominent of these deep loves are football and food. Tailgating in Louisiana is as unique as the food and music you will experience in the parking lot of any given college/high school stadium or the Superdome itself for a Saints home game.

The challenge is to find nutritional options while tailgating that are not high in sodium or calories. Believe it or not, there are many delicious foods that can be quickly and easily prepared before you head out to the big game on the weekend. For many of the foods that are tailgating party staples, a slight change in how the food is prepared and cooked can make all the difference in whether it qualifies as a healthy option or an unhealthy one.

Baked Chicken Wings
Choose to cook chicken wings in the oven rather than the deep fryer, and this slight modification will cut down on the calories immensely. Coat the chicken in whole grain breadcrumbs and bake them with green onions and hot sauce for a delicious choice of chicken wings, ready to dip in a Greek yogurt ranch dip. These baked chicken wings are a high protein alternative to any fried foods that you may encounter at a tailgate party. The protein content of these baked chicken wings will help stimulate the metabolism, while also giving your body the feeling of being full. It will be a lot easier to resist the not-so-healthy food options available at most tailgate parties once you have had a serving or two of these nutritious protein-packed wings.

Grilled Balsamic Kabobs
The aroma of delicious BBQ will be in the air at most any tailgating party you attend. There is no need to deprive yourself of a meal that has all the charcoal-grilled flavor that your heart (and stomach) desires. The key to enjoying a savory tailgating meal, while also remaining guilt-free, is to choose the right foods to grill. Kabobs are an easy choice. You can customize which vegetables and meats you would like to add to the configuration on each skewer. Lean beef, chicken, pork loin, shrimp and even tuna steak are all low-calorie protein sources that cook very easily on a grill. Marinating your choice meats and seafood in balsamic vinegar will add a lot of flavor in every bite. Continue brushing the balsamic vinegar on the kabobs as they near the end of the cooking process. Popular vegetable/fruit choices for your kabobs are cherry tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, bell peppers and olives.

Hummus and Pita Chips
Finding a healthy alternative to potato chips can be an arduous task at any social event. It is so easy when stocking up on snacks for the big game to grab a couple of bags of chips at the grocery; however, the calories in those chips will add up as the hours of snacking commence during a day of tailgating. A better choice is the combination of hummus and pita chips. The beauty of pita chips is that they contain significantly less fat and sodium than potato chips. Hummus is a nutrient-packed spread that is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It has a myriad of health benefits. From its ability to fight inflammation and improve blood sugar control to its propensity for lowering the risk of heart disease, hummus is the healthy option for a delicious dip that will satisfy your cravings.

Bloody Marys and Low-Calorie Beers
After eating the deliciously appetizing options of healthy chicken wings, kabobs and hummus with pita chips at your tailgating party, the next step is to find a nutritious beverage to quench your thirst. One of the most nutritionally sensible alcoholic beverages in existence is a Bloody Mary. With tomato juice as the base ingredient, a Bloody Mary can be the healthiest choice of cocktails at a tailgating event. Other than the sodium content in the dash of hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a Bloody Mary recipe, the other ingredients are very organic and healthy. With a garnish of celery to stir the refreshing beverage as you socialize at the party, a Bloody Mary is essentially a doctored-up vegetable juice with vodka. If you opt to omit the alcohol, then the Bloody Mary is a completely healthy option for your tailgating refreshment.

For those football fans that prefer an ice-cold beer while feasting on mouth-watering food at the pre-game festivities, there is now a massive assortment of low-calorie beers available on the market. Most of the low-calorie beers are under 95 calories. Some are astonishingly as low as 67 calories. Considering that the average domestic beer contains about 150 calories, the low-calorie options are a great choice for a day of tailgating before the big game.

The number one objective for every tailgating party is to have a great time. If you are trying to stay disciplined with your nutrition plan, the key is moderation. A “reward” day is well-earned after a strict week of eating healthy and exercising religiously. Remember that a small portion goes a long way in relation to satisfying cravings. Most tailgating events will have a delectable spread of food choices that are probably not going to be the healthiest. Bringing your own nutritional dishes to the party will help you stay on track. The baked chicken wings, balsamic kabobs and hummus with pita chips are all well-received by health-conscious individuals as well as the standard pre-game tailgater. Your team needs your energy for the big game each weekend. The passionate cheers from the crowd fuel a team on so many levels. Eat the right foods for the job, and you and your crew will be tailgating harder than the opposing team plays!

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