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Be a Winner at Tailgating

Tailgating is a fun part of the game but can sack your dietary goals well before kickoff. However, with a good game plan, you won’t be sidelined by heavy, greasy foods and extra calories.

Keep your head in the game with these tailgating tips:

1. Don’t Arrive Hungry

Eat a healthy meal before arriving at the party. “Not only is it important to eat well before the event so you aren’t over-hungry by the time you arrive, but it also matters what you eat,” said Registered Dietitian Diego Guzman, RD, of Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital. “You want to set the tone for your day by eating a healthy breakfast or lunch so that you’re more apt to continue eating well. Sometimes, when we tend to start the day eating junk, we continue eating that way all day long.”

Guzman recommends including a lean protein in your meal, like an egg or a handful of nuts, along with plenty of fiber to fill you up such as vegetables and fruit.

2. Choose Lean Options

Once there, opt for the leanest options. Consider bringing your own meat or tofu product to add to the grill. “Grilling kabobs with lean chicken or shrimp and vegetables are a tasty way to go. Or replace the fatty hamburger with a veggie burger instead,” said Guzman.

3. Swap the Chips

Bags of chips always make it to a tailgate party and their salty, greasy crunch can be irresistible. “Instead of chips, choose whole grain crackers, which are usually a less salty, less fat option with high fiber, to dip in humus or a light cheese spread,” said Guzman.  He also suggests popcorn as a great substitute. “You can make popcorn at home in the microwave using regular popcorn kernels in a paper bag. Once popped, lightly mist with spray oil and add salt, or add extra flavor with taco seasoning, parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast,” Guzman added.

4. Pack Your Veggies

Don’t forget vegetables on your party table, said Guzman. “Filling up on fibrous vegetables can keep you sated so you don’t reach for the less-healthy options on the table,” he said. “A traditional vegetable tray is always a good possibility, but for an extra twist, consider lightly roasting (baking) your vegetables first and include a tasty humus for dipping.”  Or try these veggie favorites: buffalo cauliflower “wings” or broccoli poppers.

5. Avoid Mindless Eating

At parties, it’s easy to munch while talking and have no idea what you’ve just eaten. “Try to listen to your hunger cues and eat only when you’re hungry,” said Guzman, who also recommends eating slowly. “When you take the time to actually taste the food you’re eating, your body has more time to tell you when you’re full.” Another idea: choose small plates over larger ones.

6. Limit Alcohol Intake

Once the alcohol starts flowing, best intentions can drop like a bad throw. Be aware of the national guidelines for alcohol consumption before you go, then set your limit and stick to it. Try drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic drink to limit the alcohol and to keep from getting dehydrated. Water also helps curb hunger, aids in digestion and helps to mitigate a hangover.

7. Plan to Move

Add some activities to the party so you aren’t sitting too much of the day. Playing Frisbee, a game of cornhole, or tossing a football back and forth are ways to be social and burn a few extra calories. You could also go for a walk around the parking lot to see what other tailgaters are up to. The activity will not only help you digest your meal but can keep you from eating more than planned.

“Planning for your tailgate party can be a lot of fun,” said Guzman. “Involve others in the planning, do most of the food prep ahead of time so you’ll have more time to enjoy socializing, and do all you can to make your next tailgate buffet a winner for health.”

It could be a game changer for everyone!  

Diego Guzman is a registered dietitian at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport. He can be reached at 541-265-2244.