Student athletes and fans have two very different — albeit equally important — rituals to prepare for a major game. The former trains for months on end, enduring strenuous workouts, memorizing all sorts of plays and coping with the occasional bump and bruise as they get in prime themselves for the competition.
Fans too, spend months preparing, trash-talking with rivals and jotting game days on their calendars, but their big showdown occurs hours before: the tailgate.
Burgers, hot dogs, wings and piled-high nachos may be the norm at tailgates across America, but that doesn’t mean that agreeing to grill out before kickoff condemns you to trading in skinny jeans for sweatpants. (Note: I’m not a nutritionist, so these recipes simply follow the basic principles I’ve gained in my years of health classes and interviews with dieticians for newspaper articles. If you have any healthier takes, please send them my way! I’d love to feature them!)
Here’s a roundup of some healthier alternatives that don’t taste like rabbit food:
- Jackie Haberman’s Seven-Layer, No-Bake Mexican Dip — Though nachos are oh-so delicioso, they can also be oh-so disastrous to your waistline. After piling on the gooey ground beef, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, refried beans and salsa, the snack can easily become a meal in itself. Lighten things up even further by swapping refried beans for black beans (just drain and mash ’em to create a paste) and using only a thin layer of sour cream.
- Victoria’s ‘Creamy’ Vegan Pasta Salad — Most macaroni salads feature gobs of mayo and little nutritional value. This version saves some calories by substituting hummus and salsa, and it packs a nice dose of fiber and protein from the broccoli, beans and tofu.
- Guiltless Sweet Potato Fries — They’re baked instead of deep-fried, and they have a sweet honey glaze that can satisfy your sweet tooth without all the calories and fat in the cupcakes, cookies and other prepackaged treats common at tailgates.
- Firecracker Hot Dogs — Opt for a whole-grain bun and choose freshly grilled veggies to for a flavorful twist on this game day classic — without all the fat that chili, cheese and bottled condiments contain. Toast the bun without seasoning it with olive oil for an even leaner entree.
- Fruit salsa and cinnamon chips — I’ve been to more tailgates (and games, and post-game parties) where I left trying to justify to myself that I did get a serving of veggies — that jarred salsa counts, right? And those potato chips? Why, they’re from potatoes, so they must count, right? Fruit is almost impossible to find at the typical tailgate, so put your conscience at ease with this light, refreshing snack.