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Healthy Tailgating

Healthy Tailgating

AUBURN, Ala. – Football season is in full swing. Thousands of fans flock to stadiums every Saturday to cheer on their favorite college teams and spend the day tailgating.

Traditionally, tailgating means high caloric foods, often fried and loaded with cheese. These can actually make you sluggish and tired.

Many people want to enjoy tailgating while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Andrea Morris, a health and nutrition specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, has some great advice.

Have a Tailgate Game Plan

There are a few steps to take to enjoy tailgate food without adding the typical calories. Morris said to first have a game plan before tailgating begins. Plan to eat prior to kickoff. Morris said, “by doing this, everyone can enjoy their meal and great conversation.” If you are tv tailgating, eat prior to kickoff. It can help you avoid consuming too many calories by snacking while watching the game.

If you plan on drinking alcoholic beverages or soft drinks at the tailgate, Morris said to alternate between those beverages and water throughout the day. “It will keep you hydrated and cut out some calories,” Morris added.  Alcohol does not quench thirst.

Healthy Snacks

Always have healthy snacking options such as fruits and vegetables, and include physical activity when possible. Morris suggested fun games like frisbee, throwing a football or playing kickball. To add even more fun. “You can also create a scavenger hunt to encourage your group to get up and walk around the tailgating area,” she said.

For those who think eating healthy means sacrificing taste, Morris said simply baking or grilling foods such as chicken wings is a healthy alternative to frying. Salsa and guacamole are always crowd pleasers. These foods can take the place of heavier, cheese-filled dips.

Some of Dr. Morris’ favorite go-to snacks include apple slices with peanut butter, cottage cheese and pineapples, a snack mix of peanuts and almonds, and yogurt covered cranberries.

Think Food Safety

Another important aspect of tailgating is food safety. Morris has tips to remember while eating outside. “Don’t leave food sitting off the grill or out of the cooler for more than two hours,” she said. “If temperatures are 90 degrees or higher, don’t leave food out for no more than one hour.” She also advised using coolers filled with ice packs or ice to keep perishable food items below 40 degrees.

Cook meats to a safe internal temperature. “Ground beef or pork should be cooked to 160 degrees, poultry to 165 degrees and steaks, chops, roast, fresh pork and ham, 145 degrees,” Morris added.  Remember to separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods.

Keep Hands Clean

Lastly, when it comes to food safety it’s always important to keep your hands clean. Morris advised tailgaters to bring extra water with soap and paper towels, hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during football season can be accomplished by following Morris’ tips. Planning to eat before the game, choosing healthy food and drink choices, and remembering food safety tips will help make an enjoyable tailgate season.

Featured photo by Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock.com

In Text Image by Monkey Business Images/shutterstock.com

About Donna Reynolds