Healthy Twists on Tailgate Fare

Posted On Wednesday, 17 October 2018
Healthy Twists on Tailgate Fare

Filling the tables at a tailgate with delicious dishes is a team effort, and you can always count on plenty of the typical hearty offerings fit for a linebacker.

This season, add a little variety to the lineup with some lighter (but equally delicious) dishes.

Read on for healthy twists on tailgating classics.

Skewered Salads

Salad may not seem like a finger-food fit for a tailgate. But stick it on a skewer, and you’ve got an easy-to-eat option to balance out some of the heavier dishes in the mix.

Salad skewers can be light and refreshing for those of us in the southern U.S. who are still sweating though fall football games, or they can be a bit heartier for football fans in cooler climates. Whatever the weather, make sure you pack your food items in a well-insulated cooler with ice or ice packs. For warmer climates, transport the cooler in the air-conditioned interior of the car. In cool-weather climates, transport coolers in your trunk as the cold temperatures outside will help keep food chilled.

The following skewered salads are all winners:

  • Fall fruit salad skewers: alternate pieces of pears, grapes, and apples; serve with vanilla Greek yogurt
  • Shrimp cobb salad skewers: alternate pieces of bib lettuce, cooked shrimp, quartered boiled eggs, bacon, diced avocados, and cherry tomatoes; serve with buttermilk dressing
  • Pasta salad skewers: alternate pieces of cooked tortellini, cherry tomatoes, sliced salami, and halved canned artichoke hearts; serve with Italian dressing

Protein-Packed Hors d’Oeuvres

Game day appetizers often have to keep you full for the entirety of the football game to follow, so consider options with plenty of protein. Seafood is a tasty ingredient to work in that offers about 20 grams of protein per three-ounce serving, which is why the most recent Dietary Guidelines recommend eating two servings each week for a healthy heart and weight.

Below are some protein-rich hors d’oeuvres ideas:

  • Crab-stuffed deviled eggs
  • Refried bean nacho bites on scoop-shaped tortilla chips
  • Mini tuna melts on crackers
While these foods will keep your hands relatively clean, be sure to pack hand sanitizer and moist towelettes for you and your guests to clean up before (and after) digging in.

Dessert Dips

Dips are a tailgate mainstay because they’re easy to transport and share with a crowd. For an unexpected take on a traditional dessert, make a sweet dessert dip. The following autumn-inspired dip ideas feature fruits and vegetables in the dips or as dippers:

  • Pumpkin pie dip with canned pumpkin and cream cheese; serve with ginger snaps as dippers
  • Caramel apple dip with cream cheese, caramel sauce, and chopped peanuts; serve with sliced red and green apples
  • Pecan pie dip with pecans, dates, and applesauce; serve with graham crackers

When it’s time to enter the game, throw away perishable tailgate items. Foods should not be left unrefrigerated for more than an hour in hot weather or two hours in cooler temperatures.

Healthier tailgate fare will help fuel you up to be an energetic fan all the way through overtime. No matter how your team scores, the food is a guaranteed win!

Jennifer McGuire, MS, RD

Jennifer McGuire, MS, RD, has a decade of experience writing and talking about healthful food.

A respected nutrition resource for the media, fellow healthcare professionals, policymakers, and food companies including the National Fisheries Institute, Jennifer is passionate about helping families figure out mealtime.

She lives in Dallas with her husband and three young sons.

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