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Healthy Foods for a Tailgating Party


Updated April 25, 2014

Tailgating at Lambeau Field

Tailgating at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Shereen Jegtvig

The usual tailgating fare includes foods that are easy to cook on a grill, such as hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and bratwursts served on white rolls and accompanied by chips and dips, sauerkraut, and condiments.

These foods are tasty, but they're also high in calories and fat. And while that's okay once in awhile, I've got some ideas for seasoned tailgaters who want to turn to healthier fare:

Meats and seafood: Wild game meats are low in fat and quite delicious. No need to overcook your elk, venison or other game meats -- they're delicious and safe to eat when cooked to medium temperature. 

Seafood is usually low in fat and has omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for your health. Place a piece of white fish in aluminum foil, and add a bit of white wine, fresh herbs, garlic, lemon and almonds. Wrap up the foil into a packet and cook over low heat. Or pack some cold cooked shrimp and cocktail sauce for pre-game shrimp cocktails.

Poultry, including skinless chicken or turkey breasts, can be grilled and served with a little of your favorite barbecue sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or served plain. Another option is to make these low-fat "Buffalo wings" and reheat them in a foil pan on the grill.

Breads and rolls: Most burgers and hotdogs are served on plain white hamburger buns and hotdog rolls. Bring 100-percent whole grain breads, rolls and buns instead. You might want to start your pre-tailgating morning with a hearty breakfast that includes a bowl of hot oatmeal or another whole grain cereal.

Vegetables: Chunks of tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, squash and zucchini can all be grilled and served as side dishes. Use skewers to make kabobs with your favorite vegetables and chunks of lean meat, chicken or shrimp.

Young potatoes with their skins, asparagus and sweet corn can also be roasted on a grill. I like to use a metal pan placed over low heat, so the small or narrow vegetables don't fall through the grates.

Fruit: If your tailgating parties require some sweet treats, you can skip the sugary stuff and bring fresh fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, peaches, and berries instead. Slice some apples and serve them with a bit of caramel sauce. Or top some berries with whipped cream.

Beverages: If your tailgating party is going to include alcohol, be sure to provide plenty of water and other non-alcoholic soft drinks, so you're in good shape for game time. Regular soft drinks are high in calories from all the added sugar, but you can choose diet soda, sparkling water or some 100-percent fruit juice, which still has a lot of calories, but also has good nutritional value.

Food safety: Don't forget about food safety practice when you grill or serve foods outdoors. Hot foods need to stay hot (over 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold foods need to stay cold (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep raw meats and seafood away from foods that are ready to serve and bring plenty of clean utensils.

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