College football season is in full swing, homecoming is around the corner and that can only mean one thing: Tailgating! Hauling lawn chairs, grills and a cooler packed full of your favorite foods and drinks to a stadium parking lot full of people is part of the fun of football season. The game plan is to eat, drink and mingle until it’s time to head in and cheer on your school’s team as they take on your fiercest rival. This season, switch-up your game plan so that you keep the party big and the calories small.
“On average, tailgaters consume up to three times the recommended daily calorie allowance,” says Luke Corey, registered dietitian, performance nutritionist at EXOS and consultant for The Coca-Cola Company. “These extra calories are usually stored as body fat. One tailgating party may not result in weight gain, but for the 60 percent of students who tailgate five or more times a season, those extra calories can really add up.”
Here are seven tips for having fun this football season without adding extra pounds:
Tip 1 – Recruit your teammates
The key to success, whether on the football field or at a tailgate party, is to recruit a strong team. Gather your roommates or classmates and plan to have a healthy tailgate party together. Delegate responsibilities to each member, such as preparing the healthy snacks or packing extra water, and celebrate when they make a great play.
Tip 2 – Warm up with a healthy snack
Before you leave your dorm or apartment to attend a tailgating party, eat a healthy snack that is nutrient-dense, high in fiber and low in calories. Low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh berries or a protein bar are great pre-tailgating snacks.
Tip 3 – Hydrate like a football player
Collegiate athletes understand the need to properly hydrate before, during and after a game. Since tailgating can be like a sport, aim to drink at least 8 ounces of fluids every hour before and during the tailgating party (all non-alcoholic beverages hydrate).
Tip 4 – Don’t fumble your food and beverage choices
Much like football, you win some and lose some when it comes to food choices during a tailgate. Get on a winning streak by enjoying your favorite, classic party foods and beverages in moderation. Options such as sliders, small cups of chili and toothpick tasters are great ways to manage calories and still enjoy your favorites. For soda lovers, the 7.5-ounce Coca-Cola mini can not only saves space in your cooler but comes in other popular flavors like Diet Coke, Coke Zero and more.
Tip 5 – Avoid a food safety flag
Meats such as beef, chicken and pork are often the proteins of choice at a tailgate. Practice food safety by keeping these items in a cooler and then cooking them to the proper temperature on the grill. Foodborne illnesses are quite common at events like these, so take precautions to avoid a food safety flag.
Tip 6 – Take a break at halftime
Many tailgating parties can last five or six hours, so try to avoid sitting down the whole time. Get up and cheer! And when the team takes this opportunity to rehydrate and refuel, you can do the same. Make sure to take a break at the halfway point: get out of your chair, walk around the lot, stretch your muscles, hydrate and grab a healthy snack.
Tip 7 – Celebrate the win – yours and the team’s
Hopefully, your team wins the game. Regardless, consider it a victory if you are able to achieve tips one through six. These will help you make smarter choices and keep your tailgate party fun.