Take Back Your Tailgate

An assortment of healthy snacking options: fresh cut vegetables, nuts, whole grain crackers, etc.
Photo: anakopa/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Autumn is almost upon us. While that might mean completing back-to-school shopping lists and saying goodbye to the lazy days of summer, it also welcomes the beginning of one of our most cherished traditions in America, and that is football season.

Some people have season tickets to watch their favorite team. Those going to college this fall may experience the excitement that only a seat in the student section can ignite. Others prefer to watch the game from home, surrounded by their closest friends or family.

We all have our own game-day traditions. But one thing that serves as the common denominator among the many cherished traditions between people is food. I mean, when is the last time you attended a tailgate party without appetizers, snacks or a cold beverage?

However, tailgate parties often do not provide a bounty of healthy options. Overindulging on typical tailgate foods could leave you feeling uncomfortable and dampen the celebratory mood.

This year, I consider incorporating more nutritious options and health-promoting activities while preserving your game-day traditions. Start with small modifications to incorporate heart-healthy practices into your day!  Here are some ideas to help you get started.

  1. Fill a small plate rather than eating out of the common bowl or bag to help maintain mindfulness of portion sizes.
  2. Season food with fresh herbs and spices instead of adding salt, condiments or dressings.
  3. Stretch often. Take a walk or play catch to remain active during the game. Set a timer every half hour as a reminder or make a point to move during commercial breaks.
  4. Substitute lean meats, fish or plant proteins such as beans for fatty meats. Try a turkey burger, salmon patty or black bean burger instead of a beef burger or fried options.
  5. Fill at least half your plate with a colorful assortment of fruits and veggies. Use your local autumn harvest in a new recipe. Try infusing your water with fresh berries or citrus fruits to replace some alcoholic or sugar-sweetened beverages.
  6. Choose non-fat or low-fat dairy options when possible. Try non-fat plain Greek yogurt to replace sour cream.
Jessica Becker
Jessica Becker is a dietetic intern at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI, where she is working toward her RD credentials. She earned her bachelor’s degree with a double major in dietetics and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point in May 2017. Jessica would like to pursue a career as a clinical dietitian and finds particular interest in the ICU, eating disorders and oncology patient populations.