A Healthier Approach to Tailgate Food

by - Monday, September 15, 2014

One of my favorite things about football season, aside from the actual games of course, is the tailgate food. Typically I pile my plate with as many munchies as I can, not even coming close to thinking about how many calories I'm taking in or fat grams I'm consuming. Since I'm on this real health kick lately, and so far it's working out pretty well, I decided to bring in a friend who knows her stuff when it comes to living Healthfully Ever After. Blogger and registered dietitian nutritionist, Carlene Thomas RDN, LD, is guest posting today on First Impressions. Carlene shares some of her healthier game day recipes, that don't compromise on taste, but leave you feeling better about those tailgate must haves on game day.

Tailgating is the culinary and social peak of fall in many areas. In the South they bring out the team color game day dresses and corn-hole. In the Midwest the brews are chilling with fresh sausages. But wherever you're living, what could be better than ahealthy tailgating recipe for a dip and a cocktail to kick off the season?

When Kristyn asked me to guest post on this topic, it was the perfect fit. SO many of my clients come to me unsure of how to 'survive' party and tailgate season. In fact, the Calorie Control Council estimates that the average football fan consumes an average of 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat from game day snacks alone, with an average weight gain of 10 pounds per football season. That's insane. And USDA reports people actually eat more on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. Thanksgiving included.

So let's take a look at some of those typical tailgate foods:
* Philly Cheesesteak: 1200 calories
* Wisconsin Beer Brats: 516 calories
* Chicken Wings: 220 calories (in 3 wings WITHOUT DIP!)
* Pigs in a Blanket: 410 calories ( for 5 pieces)

Yikes. While these numbers may surprise you, I never tell clients they 'can't' eat this kind of food. The only thing that does is lead to guilt, cravings and just more stupid rules. The bottom line is celebration food is all about quality and moderation. Does it really taste good? How much are you eating? What does the rest of the day look like nutrition wise? And of course, are there better options that would make you just as happy?

Today I'm sharing two easy swaps you can take to tailgating. The first is a lighter cocktail. By creating a spritzer with seltzer/club soda, you're keeping the carbonation you're used to with soda mixers, but for zero calories! The dip is a play on buffalo chicken dip. Because a typical dip like that contains ranch dressing, cream cheese, sour cream and a few types of shredded cheese, it got a major make over in a smart, high protein, low fat way. 

Apple Cider Spritzer

for each drink:
  • Add 1 shot of bourbon or whiskey
  • 4 ounces of apple cider
  • 4 ounces of seltzer water/club soda

Stir to combine or pre-mix a big batch of cider and liquor, and top with bubbles on site!

High Protein Buffalo "Chicken" Dip
  • 20 ounces soft tofu 
  • 1/2 hot sauce
  • 2 T ranch dressing powder
  • 3/4 C extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 
Drain tofu and break into crumbles with a fork. If you want your dip super smooth, throw it in a blender with the hot sauce, or swap soft tofu for 'silken' tofu. Mix in the hot sauce and ranch dressing powder. Divide the cheese in half and mix half into the tofu and top tofu in a baking dish with the remainder of the cheese. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes until bubbling. Finish in the broiler to get the top layer extra melty.


Carlene Thomas RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Northern Virginia. Her business, Healthfully Ever After LLC focuses on wedding wellness: helping brides be happier and healthier before and beyond saying "I do." She also spends her time in the communications world, food styling and testing recipes. Carlene is a frequent social media user and her blog of the same name (Healthfully Ever After) provides healthy recipes for readers. She has been featured in Southern Weddings, The Knot, Washingtonian, Virginia Bride, Buzz Feed Food, Style Me Pretty, Glitter Guide and more.

Keep up with Carlene via TwitterInstagram and Facebook!

Written by Kristyn of First Impressions

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