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Nutrition: How To Become A Happy (And Healthy) Tailgater

September 15, 2017

Tailgating classics like cheesy appetizers, burgers, hot dogs, pretzels and beer may get you in the game-day mood but they can really pack in the calories and sodium.

There are almost 500 calories in one soft pretzel. A 150-pound woman would need to cycle 10 mph for 81 minutes to burn off those calories. Just two small scoops of cheese dip have more than 400 milligrams of sodium. There are, however, healthier pre-game choices. Keep reading for delicious tailgating party ideas that also get a registered dietitian’s stamp of approval.

Try this skinny dip. Swap cheese dip with this flavorful layered bean dip packed with heart-healthy fiber and potassium. In a casserole dish, layer refried black beans (use one with about 200 mg sodium and 3 grams of fat per ½-cup serving), homemade guacamole or chopped avocados, low-sodium salsa, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, and garnish with a handful of Mexican-style shredded cheese. Serve with vegetable sticks and whole grain tortilla chips.

Bring bite-sized appetizers. Keep it simple with a tray of hardboiled eggs and cucumber cups. To make hardboiled eggs party-ready, slice in half and decorate with herbs, spices and smoked salmon. If you are a deviled egg fan, try yogurt and a splash of hot sauce instead of mayo. For cucumber cups, slice cucumbers into thick rounds and scoop out a little bowl in the center of each and fill with a small amount of olive tapenade and garnish with feta cheese.

Make vegetables the star of the menu. Try this sweet and spicy slaw that everyone will love on its own or as a healthy topping for sandwiches. In a large bowl, combine ½ head of thinly sliced red cabbage, ½ head of thinly sliced green cabbage, 1 chopped red bell pepper, 1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper, fresh parsley, 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple, the juice of one lime, two tablespoons mayo, a spoon of sugar or honey, a generous pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Mix well. This slaw can be made up to four days in advance. As it marinates, the lime juice turns the entire salad a lovely pink color.

Bring a slow cooker full of pulled BBQ chicken for a simple and delicious main dish that pairs perfectly with the sweet and spicy slaw. Pile chicken and slaw on whole grain dinner rolls for perfectly portioned sliders. This recipe shaves 200-300 calories off traditional sliders.

Make a crowd-pleasing dessert. Fire up the grill and layer peaches, pineapples and cherries on wooden skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes. Cook fruit kebabs until grill marks are visible. Arrange on a plate, drizzle with chocolate sauce and indulge in decadently sweet, guilt-free dessert.

Limit alcohol. In general, cocktails contain a higher proportion of alcohol and are often loaded with sugar and calories. If you are a cocktail lover, try a Bloody Mary made with shochu, a lower-calorie alternative to vodka. This warming cocktail is delicious without shochu, has no added sugar and is equivalent to one serving of vegetables. For chilly nights, fill a thermos with hot water and stash some antioxidant-rich teas in your pocket.

Brenda Viens is a Community Life Skills Dietitian for Backus Hospital and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. Email her at Brenda.Viens@hhchealth.org.