10 Tips for Healthy Tailgating

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
Plating a hot dog into its bun at a tailgate

The fall sports season is full of big games and fun times, celebrating your favorite teams before and after the action on the field. Whether you’re a fan of football, soccer or field hockey, tailgating brings us together to support the players, socialize with family and friends, and enjoy good food in the great outdoors. The good news is that you can get in on the action while staying on track to your weight loss goal. To help you prepare a winning game plan for healthy eating, here are 10 tips to keep in mind when you tailgate this season.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Man enjoying a calm and nourishing breakfast

Avoid the trap of skipping breakfast on game day to save calories for the tailgate. Instead, kick off the day with a hearty, healthy morning meal that will keep you from feeling famished when the tailgate begins and then overeating. If you’re in a hurry before you head to the game, whip up a nourishing Caramel Coffee Protein Shake with Vanilla Nutrisystem Shake Mix and enjoy one of our fully prepared breakfast options. You’ll be fueled up and ready for the big day ahead!

2. Bring your own.

Spinach dip and crackers

The most reliable way to be sure you have good, healthy choices at any party is to bring a dish or two yourself. Try one of our party favorites, like Cauliflower Buffalo Bites or Skinny Spinach Dip. Everyone will love them but only you will know they’re diet-friendly.

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3. Survey the buffet.

A full spread of chips and dip, veggies and dip, and hot dogs

Before stepping up to the plate, take a moment to look at all the options you have to pick from. If you see a couple of unhealthy foods that you really love, fill your plate with good choices first and leave room for just a few bites of the favorites you can’t resist.

4. Seek out the SmartCarbs.

Bowl full of colorful fruits

Many common foods at tailgates are simple carbohydrates that are high in calories and low in fiber, such as potato chips, cookies, brownies and soda. Pass on them and go for SmartCarbs such as whole grain crackers, hummus or fresh fruit. You can also bring healthier versions of these tasty treats by whipping up one of the many recipes here on The Leaf! We have recipes for all of the above. Try these recipes for Air Fryer Potato Chips, Black Bean Brownie Dip and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Pro Tip: Throw some fresh fruit on the grill to take the flavor to the next level!

5. Lean on low-fat protein.

Several people sitting next to each other with plates of tailgate food

Grilled foods are common tailgate favorites. Whenever you have a choice, pick PowerFuels like lean turkey burgers or chicken breast. They’re high in protein to fuel you up for fun, but they are low in saturated fat so you don’t load up on excess calories.

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6. Hold the ketchup and mayo.

A pair of hot dogs, ketchup and mustard

The classic condiments ketchup and mayonnaise are categorized as “Extras” on the Nutrisystem Grocery Guide. This is because they’re higher in calories than other options. You can enjoy these in moderation, although it can be quite hard to measure out the correct serving size when you’re at the tailgate. Instead, opt for lower calorie condiments like mustard, which is a “Free Food” and unlimited on your Nutrisystem weight loss plan.

7. Load up on veggies.

A burger with all the fixings, with watermelon and corn in the background

If burgers or other kinds of sandwiches are the main course at your tailgate, top them with as much lettuce, tomatoes and onions as you’d like. This will add delicious flavors and textures while providing one of your four daily servings of non-starchy vegetables.

8. Limit alcohol.

A smaller serving of a glass of beer

While alcohol is high in empty calories, you can enjoy an adult beverage and stay on track with your healthy eating plan. Go for light beer or hard seltzer, white wine or a cocktail without sugary mixers. You can also whip up a batch of our Virgin Jalapeno Lemon Margaritas to share.

Note: Nutrisystem recommends a maximum of two servings of alcohol per week. Try to spread them out so you don’t have them on the same day. Stick to proper portions: A serving of wine is about four ounces (half cup).  A serving of beer is 12 ounces—the amount in standard bottles and cans. One shot—or one and a half ounces—is one serving of liquor.

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9. Stand up.

A cornhole board with beanbags

You burn more calories when you’re on your feet than when you’re sitting on your rear end. At a tailgate, it’s perfectly acceptable to stand while eating. Burn off a few more calories by playing cornhole or another fun game, which also keeps you from standing around the buffet and continuing to pick at the food.

10. Stay on first.

Serving hot dogs at a tailgate

The temptation to make a second trip around the buffet can be strong. Before you do, wait at least a half hour after finishing your first plate before you decide whether or not you are full before returning to the buffet table for seconds.