Have a Healthier Tailgate

In honor of the Steeler’s season opener on Sunday (1:00) I decided to give you some tips on how to eat a little bit healthy at your tailgate! I know you’re not at a tailgate to worry about what you are eating and making sure it is healthy. But here are just a few little things won’t make a big change in taste just in healthy factor!

Make Turkey Brats instead of Pork Bratwurst

Now I’ve never eaten a bratwurst so I’m not sure how one is supposed to taste but switching it from pork to turkey helps a lot in nutrition! It’s a difference of 450 calories and 37 grams of fat for the pork, versus 160 calories and 9 grams of fat for the turkey. You can still boil in beer and soak in mustard and they’re really quite tasty.

Chicken Sandwiches instead of Burgers

I normally switch out ground beef for ground turkey when I would make anything with ground me because it is so much better for you. But another great thing is to switch burgers for chicken sandwiches instead! A regular 6 oz. angus beef patty yields 500 calories and 43 grams of fat, whereas a 6 oz. grilled chicken breast yields 281 calories and 6 grams of fat. Season any way you like, and still add a slice of reduced-fat cheese!

Salsa instead of Cheese Dip

I know everyone loves cheese dips for chips but you can easily switched it out for salsa! Choose a baked corn chip and feel free to dip into fresh homemade or store-bought salsa. Just two tablespoons of cheese dip has 40 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Hearty salsas offer about 10-15 calories and zero fat per two tablespoons. Also consider guacamole or hummus (my favorite kind of hummus is roasted red pepper!)

Light Beer for Regular Beer

Beer for some people is a staple when tailgating but drinking can add up to be a lot of calories. You never want to drink your calories, but if you’re going to have a few cold ones while tailgating, make them light beers. The average light beer has 103 calories, compared to 153 in your average regular beer. Also, alternate a bottle of water between beers to stay hydrated and avoid filling up on empty calories.

Whole Grain Buns instead of White Buns

You want to limit white, processed foods anywhere you can, so start with swapping your burger and hot dog buns. You’ll be adding some essential fiber, vitamins and minerals that get stripped in the processing of white breads. Plus, they taste pretty good, too!

Include Some Fruits and Veggies

This one is super easy! You can get a premade veggie or fruit tray or make your own. This also can be accomplished in a number of other ways and won’t feel like a tea party. Throw bell peppers, corn on the cob,  onions, asparagus, and zucchini on the grill and serve with your entree. Make fruit kabobs by alternating grapes, strawberries, melon, and kiwi on skewers. Grilled pineapple complements grilled chicken well, and grilled peaches with honey make an irresistible dessert. In the colder months, serve thick vegetable soups or stews loaded in veggies.

Healthier Snacks instead of Junk Food

One of the fun things about tailgating is the junk food, I won’t lie. Everyone wants those finger foods and snacks, and it’s okay to oblige. But if you put out cheddar cheese crackers, choose the whole grain variety. If you put out a bowl of nuts, make them fresh, raw nuts, rather than the over-salted canned variety. If someone wants chocolate, make it a dark chocolate low in added sugar. The compromises are there, you just have to find them.

Here are also a few recipes for some great healthier tailgate foods!

Artichoke and Spinach Dip


  • 10 oz spinach
  • 1 can artichoke hearts
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 dash Tabasco
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 bag whole wheat pita chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Drain 1 can of artichoke hearts, and chop them into small pieces. Place in a bowl.
  3. Chop 1 bunch of green onions, and mince 1 clove of garlic. Add to bowl.
  4. Chop 10 ounces of spinach, add to bowl, and mix.
  5. Blend in 1 cup of fat-free sour cream, 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1 dash of Tabasco, and salt and pepper (to taste).
  6. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl, then transfer them to a food processor, and pulse until blended.
  7. Put mixture in an oven-proof dish, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes (or until bubbling around the edges and browning on top).
  8. While dip is baking, chop 1 tomato.
  9. Take dip out of the oven, and garnish with tomato pieces.

Serve with whole wheat pita chips (a single serving of dip with a chip is 3 ounces).

Cream Cheese Roll-Ups


  • 1 packet lite cream cheese
  • 8 whole wheat tortillas
  • 16 slices turkey
  • 8 leaves romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup salsa


  1. In bowl, whip together 1 packet of lite cream cheese and 1/4 cup of salsa.
  2. Spread the mixture on the bottom layer of each whole wheat pita.
  3. Layer pitas with sliced turkey and leaves of romaine lettuce.
  4. Roll up tortillas and slice.

Place toothpicks in the roll-ups and serve.

Rosemary Skewered Chicken with Orange Glaze


  • Juice of 3 oranges
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 6 large sprigs of rosemary about 10 to 12 inches long, with half the leaves removed


  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan on medium high heat.
  2. Place the orange juice into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the orange juice has the consistency of a very thin syrup. Add the Dijon, honey, garlic, and ginger and continue cooking over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat to allow flavors to meld and reserve.
  3. Evenly divide the cubed chicken among the rosemary sprigs and skewer the chicken onto the exposed part of the rosemary sprigs.
  4. Lightly brush the grill with oil and grill chicken for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
  5. Remove skewers from the grill to a serving plate, drizzle with the orange sauce and serve immediately.

Fresh Cucumber and Tomato Salad


  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 C. red onions, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 C. fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl and mix well
  2. Serve immediately

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies


  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar free raspberry preserves (or apricot, or cherry)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 cup high gluten flour


  1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. Grease a 9×13 inch pan
  3. Set aside
  4. Combine Splenda and cocoa
  5. Gradually add eggs and preserves, beating on low-speed with electric mixer
  6. Add vanilla, salt, and almond extract and beat briefly to mix
  7. Combine flour and baking soda and stir in with a spatula
  8. Do not over mix
  9. Turn into prepared pan
  10. Bake at 325F for 30-35 minutes
  11. Brownies should be slightly under-baked but not runny in the center
  12. Allow to cool and cut into small squares

So there you go! Some things to keep in mind when you’re planning your tailgate for this weekend and some easy healthier recipes to try!


One thought on “Have a Healthier Tailgate

  1. I am a college student and found this post to be extremely informative and helpful! Every Saturday I find myself making awkward pauses and glances around the tailgating tables before deciding nothing is healthy, and stuffing my face with chips and hot dogs! As someone trying to stay fit and in shape, these are great tips and suggestions, allowing room for fun without the fear and guilt afterwards. Thanks for the information!

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