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Published on May 30, 2020

Lighten Up Your Tailgate Party

Shish kabobs on a grill

Whether you scream for the Seahawks, howl for the Huskies or Cougars, or cheer for your child’s club team, it’s football season.

And along with football goes tailgating.

Traditional tailgate party foods aren’t exactly health-conscious. The ribs or brats, potato salad, chips, dips and sweets that make up a classic tailgate picnic can add a lot of fat and calories to your diet.

Still, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods.

Why not make some easy, healthy swaps, or try a new recipe or two to make your next tailgate party a whole lot healthier?

For example:

Try low-fat hot dogs (like chicken, turkey, or veggie dogs) on whole-grain buns with low-fat toppings and shredded vegetables. A beef hot dog has 180 calories and 17 grams of fat, but a turkey dog has just 45 calories and 5 grams of fat.

If you switch from a pork bratwurst (around 450 calories and up to 37 grams of fat), you’re making an even better trade.

Game changers

Try these other tasty trades to fill you up without weighing you down:

  • Baked chips instead of regular. Or cut vegetables instead of chips.
  • Salsa instead of queso to get a spicy kick.
  • Low-fat sour cream or mayonnaise for dips. Or try Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for a low- or no-fat option that contains lots of protein as well.
  • Skinless chicken tenders instead of chicken wings. Eliminate the skin and you eliminate much of the fat, especially if you bake or grill them instead of frying.
  • Potato salad made with low-fat mayo. Another option – a less creamy potato salad (see recipe below) or a marinated vegetable or fruit salad instead.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast sandwich instead of a beef burger. It’s half the calories and 85% less fat.
  • Layered Mexican dip made with fat-free beans, low-fat sour cream, reduced fat cheese, and extra veggies.
  • Fruit or vegetable puree instead of some of the butter or oil in brownies or cookies. Try it with the chocolate cupcake recipe below, or check out last week’s brownies made with beets, applesauce, and wheat germ.
  • Light beer instead of regular and wine instead of sugary mixed drinks or “hard lemonade.”

Referee yourself

Blow the whistle on overindulging.

Here are some ways to keep from overdoing it on food or drinks at a tailgate party:

  • Eat a salad, fruit or other healthy food before you head for the parking lot so you aren’t famished when you get there.
  • Drink plenty of water to fill you up.
  • Stay busy – throwing a football or frisbee around will keep you active and keep your mind off the tailgate temptations. Volunteer to be the designated driver – skipping the beer, wine or cocktails if it’s your job to get everyone else safely home will help you cut calories, sugar and fat.


Barbecued Pork & Coleslaw Sandwiches

Zesty Baked Chicken Wings

Roasted Potato Salad with Mustard Dressing

Double-Chocolate Cupcakes

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