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How to make your tailgate food a lot healthier

Do you smell that too? Fall is in the air! This change in season always makes me think about apples, cool crisp air, camp fires, colorful leaves and, of course, football!

I think we can all agree we love our tailgates, but season after season, we can start to see how our indulgences don’t love us back.

Many traditional game day and holiday favorites are loaded with extra calories. The average fan can take in an estimated 1,200 calories in just one sitting.

Whether you’re hosting a tailgate this weekend, packing a cooler or just having a few friends over to watch the game, try these healthy tips to tackle game day over-indulgences!

Plan ahead
Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your food! This leads to impulse choices that may not be the healthiest. Plan a balanced menu that includes all the food groups. You don’t want to get stuck with just burgers on the grill, buns and chips!

Pace your meals
Don’t skip breakfast and dinner to allow for one big game-time meal. This can lead to overindulgence and is also not beneficial for our blood sugars, energy level or satiety. Start your day off with a healthy breakfast and allow snacks to keep you going and to fight off hunger.

Stay hydrated
Tailgates can include a wide variety of adult beverages and soda. Bring water, coconut water or infused water with you, especially now when it’s still warm! This keeps you hydrated and less tempted to indulge in caloric beverages, where calories add up quickly!

Put a healthy twist on traditional favorites
You don’t have to give up all of your game day favorites. Just aim for one healthy substitution. Maybe it’s making salsa instead of nacho cheese for your tortilla chips. Or put turkey burgers and veggies on the grill instead of only brats and hot dogs.

Stay active!
Tailgating doesn’t have to always be about the food — it’s also about enjoying the company you are with. Start your own game of tag football, play corn hole, throw a Frisbee, play with the little ones or simply go for a walk.

Bring healthy snacks
Arm your cooler or bag with simple and healthy snacks for when you need them! Bring things like veggies, hummus, fruits, nuts/seeds, granola, dried fruits and water. This way, you always have a healthy go-to treat.

Here is a “tried and true” Eat Smart. Be Well. recipe that is sure to be a winner at your tailgate!

Spicy Black Bean Hummus
Serves 8-10 (~¼ cup per serving)


  • 1 peeled garlic clove
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, diced (use more to crank up the heat!)
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Juice from one lemon or juice from 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Spoon into a serving bowl, fold in cilantro.
  2. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week.


  • Serve with a vegetable tray, pita chips or spread on a sandwich.
  • To spice it up a bit, top with salsa, cilantro and guacamole.
  • This could also be the base for a healthy taco dip!

Approximate nutritional values per serving: 100 Calories, 5 grams Fat (healthy fat), 140 mg Sodium, 10 grams Carbohydrates, 3 grams Fiber and 3 grams Protein

Be Well,

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