As the dog days of summer draw to an end, flocks of orange or garnet clad sports enthusiasts embark on our local college towns on Saturdays for a day of fellowship and competition. Yes, college football is a big deal around our neck of the woods, but are your tailgating habits detrimental to your health? I’m as passionate about Saturdays in the Fall as anyone around and even I must admit that it’s tough to make healthy choices when tables lined with delicious snacks or jam-packed coolers are present at our tailgate.
Here’s a brief list of some popular tailgate foods that can prevent you from reaching your health or fitness goals:
- Buffalo Chicken Dip
o This type of dip, while delicious, is loaded with carbohydrates and fats. Also, the dip is often consumed in small bites so you have to be careful due to the fact that each scoop is dense in calories. Some other similar dips with nutritional deficiencies would be beer cheese dip and hamburger dip.
- Hot Dogs
o The actual hot dog itself averages 13 grams of fat, but that fails to factor in a bun, chili, cheese, or a second helping. A hot dog loaded with the previously listed toppings can contain around 21 grams of fat (9g saturated fat) and over 1,000 mg of sodium. Your diet should consist of no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day. Excess sodium causes your body to retain water, which can amplify stress on your heart and blood vessels.
- Frozen Margaritas
o A popular tailgate concoction for the ladies can be surprisingly harmful to your diet. One average size glass (12 fl oz) consists of 230 calories, 10 grams of sugar, and 1600 mg of sodium. What can make these drinks even worse is the fact that it is hard to limit yourself to just one.
o Easily the most popular tailgate treat, beer is loaded with calories that can really stack up as your cooler gets lighter and lighter. A typical beer contains around 150 calories in each can and is often used to complement one of the aforementioned unhealthy foods. Liquid calories are easy to ingest and alcohol increases your appetite making for a scary combination.
Now here is a list of a couple tailgate foods that can be “subbed” in to help you enjoy your tailgating experience in a healthier way:
- Grilled Chicken & Veggie Skewers
o Fire up the grill and slap on some skewers loaded with chunks of chicken breast, onions, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers, and fresh mushrooms. These sticks offer up an easy grab-n-go dish for tailgaters. This snack is loaded with beneficial nutrients, virtually no sodium, and includes healthy fats (monounsaturated & polyunsaturated).
- Corn & Bean Dip
o Mix grilled corn and black beans then toss in some finely cut tomatoes and cilantro for a healthy alternative to the cheesy, sour cream filled dips. To really score a touchdown drizzle some freshly squeezed lime juice over top of the dip.
- Mini Sandwiches
o Using whole wheat bread, add a lean meat of your choice (turkey, chicken breast). There are several options you can branch out too depending on what type of sandwich you find tasty. Some possible ingredients include low-fat cheese, lettuce, cucumber slices, water chestnuts, or zucchini. Make sure to cut the sandwiches into small triangles or squares to reduce portion size.
o Sure it sounds like a no-brainer, but if you mix in a bottle of water between alcoholic or carbonated beverages you will maintain better hydration. Pure water contains no calories so filling up on H2O will lead to a decreased accumulation of calories consumed from other beverages. Replacing a beer with a bottle of water can go a long ways in helping you avoid that little drummer boy playing a beat in your head the morning after as well.
These are just a couple small ways you can improve your tailgating experience to ensure a healthier environment for not only yourself, but also your fellow football-crazed friends. Hopefully this second college football Saturday is a little friendlier than the first to our teams here in the Palmetto State!