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8 Tailgate Food Swaps to Save Calories

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
by Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
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8 Tailgate Food Swaps to Save Calories

It’s football season. … (Translation: Hello, tailgate parties!) Even if you don’t consider yourself a football fan, I’d guess you still love food and good company? Often, when we think of tailgating, burgers and brats come to mind along with creamy dips and juicy barbeque, but for the health conscious those foods may make you wince. Whether you are tailgating near the stadium or in your living room, celebrate your team the healthy way with these tailgating swaps.

Swap 1: 7 Layer Bean Dip for Queso Dip. Queso is often made with loads of melted cheese and half-and-half; sure, it’s delicious, but it won’t leave you feeling good if you overindulge. Keep temptations out of sight by serving up this 7 Layer Bean Dip that calls for Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and mayo. The beans and Greek yogurt will pump up the fiber and protein,which will fill you up faster than queso dip. Just don’t OD on the chips!

Swap 2: Turkey Meatballs for Chicken Wings. Nix the chicken wings with blue cheese dip from the menu, and dish up flavorful turkey meatballs made from lean ground turkey (no more than 10% fat) instead. Turkey meatballs served with toothpicks make great party-friendly finger food, too. If you just can’t shake that hankering for chicken wings, bake them in the oven instead of using the deep fryer.

Swap 3: Chicken and Veggie Flat Bread for Meat-Lover’s Pizza. Greasy pizza loaded with sausage and pepperoni is a common game day food—it’s easy, and what hungry fan doesn’t love thick pizza dough, savory cheese and meaty toppings? Sadly, this game day food will likely leave you with greasy fingers and a bloated tummy, and maybe even a bit of eater’s remorse. Keep it lighter at the tailgate this year by subbing in a chicken-and-veggie–topped flat bread, a delicious way to sneak in some lean protein and nutrient-dense vegetables.

Swap 4: Healthy Chicken Veggie Nachos for Loaded Cheese Fries. Nachos can be a healthy choice—it all depends on the toppings. Add grilled chicken, beans and some cheese to corn tortillas, then bake until the cheese is ooey-gooey. Top nachos with avocado, tomatoes, green onions, shredded lettuce and Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. This swap is higher in protein and lower in saturated fat to support a leaner body composition.

Swap 5: Chicken Sausage for Hot Dogs. If it just isn’t game day without hot dogs on the grill, try switching to a lean chicken sausage. High-quality lean chicken sausages are lower in fat and calories and usually contain no (or at least fewer) additives. Amp up the flavor without sacrificing the health benefits by serving chicken sausage with sauerkraut, salsa, diced onions or avocado. Did you know sauerkraut has a healthy dose of probiotics? Go naked by ditching the bun and serving with a lettuce wrap.

Swap 6: BBQ Pulled Chicken for BBQ Pulled Pork. The slow cooker does wonders on game day. Set the meat in the pot in the morning, and it will be ready to eat by early afternoon. If you’re trying to eat healthier, opt for chicken breast over fatty cuts of pork to shave nearly 100 calories per 3 ounce serving. Add your favorite BBQ sauce and chicken breast to the slow cooker, and cook on low heat for 6–8 hours. Shred the chicken, and add some additional BBQ sauce or chicken broth to keep it moist. Serve BBQ pulled chicken on a mini whole-grain slider bun with caramelized onions for a flavor explosion!

Swap 7: Broccoli Salad for Potato Salad. Broccoli salad can be a more nutritious side that’s lower in both calories and carbohydrates. Nix the mayo and potatoes, and use plain Greek yogurt and blanched broccoli florets instead. Omit the sugar in traditional recipes, and add a drizzle of honey if you need sweetness. Throw some kale into the broccoli mix for an extra green boost!

Swap 8: Grilled Fruit with Dark Chocolate for Brownie à la Mode. First at the dessert table? Keep your sweet tooth satisfied by grilling fresh fruit like pineapple, apples, peaches, watermelon and bananas. Fruit provides vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, a trio that’s hard to come by in brownies and ice cream. Grilling intensifies fruit’s natural sweetness, as does a drizzle of melted dark chocolate.

With these healthy swaps, you won’t feel like you need a nap at halftime. Go enjoy tailgating season without sabotaging your healthy lifestyle!

About the Author

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN

Kristina is a board certified sports dietitian located in Orlando, Florida where she specializes in intuitive and mindful eating. She is the author of the food and nutrition blog, Love & Zest where she shares {mostly} healthy recipes with simple ingredients that are meant for real life. As a new mom, she knows that eating well and living an active lifestyle isn’t always easy… but it’s always worth it!! Kristina loves spending time outdoors with her family, sweaty workouts, and a good cup of coffee. Get in touch with her for one-on-one nutrition coaching (virtually or in person), or connect with her on PinterestInstagramFacebook  and YouTube.


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