It’s football season, and that means tailgating, whether you are at the game or in your own backyard. Too often this means high calorie, high fat foods and way too much of them. Why not take a stand this year to make healthy recipes for tailgating? Now, I know what you’re thinking and healthy does not mean boring!

It just takes a little twist on the traditional thinking. Why not choose turkey burgers or grilled chicken sandwiches over hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausages? Pile on the veggies, too, for great flavor and a boost of antioxidants. Go for a themed meal and serve chicken tacos, stuffed jalapenos, guacamole, and salsa. This provides lots of flavor with less calories and fat. Use herbs, spices, and flavorings instead of salt, too. If you need more ideas, call the Nutrition and Food Department of your VA Medical Center to see about meeting with a dietitian to learn healthy cooking techniques or be scheduled in cooking classes where available. We have room for you.

Don’t forget to include lots of ice and insulated coolers to keep your food safe during transportation. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot for maximum food safety. Remember to keep raw meats away from foods that aren’t going to be cooked. Don’t pack the raw turkey or chicken with the lettuce and tomatoes.

While you’re waiting for the game to start, add some physical activity to your day. Don’t just be a spectator, get active. Some tips include:

  • park at the far end of the parking lot and walk to the arena
  • start a game of catch in the parking lot while waiting for your food to be ready
  • play outside with the kids if you’re watching the game on television

And if this motivates you to improve your lifestyle, call your local VA to talk to a dietitian about joining the MOVE weight management program.

Once inside the stadium, save your money and stay away from extra calories by avoiding the concession stands. Fill up on your healthy treats before the game and drink water to stay hydrated in the heat.

The most important guideline to tailgating is moderation; in desserts and sweets as well as moderation in alcohol. Remember to choose healthier items at concession stands when possible instead of the cotton candy or candy bars. Consider bringing your own homemade trail mix to the game with almonds, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Moderate consumption for men is less than two servings of alcohol. Moderate consumption for women is less than 1 serving daily of alcohol. So what makes up a serving:

  • 12-ounces of beer
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor
  • 5-ounces of wine
  • 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey)

If you have any healthy, delicious tailgating recipes you’d like to share, we’d love to see them. Turn over a new leaf, help your health and your waistline, and try some light, flavorful food today. What is your favorite tailgating recipe?

Debra is completing her internship at the Memphis VA Medical Center and plans on becoming a clinical dietitian. Her passion is proving to people that healthy food tastes good.

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Published on Oct. 1, 2012

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