Tailgating is as much a part of football as foam fingers and face paint. Whether you’re a fan of college football or the pros, here’s the play-by-play for scoring a touchdown at your next tailgate party.
1. Sack the fatty snacks
Let’s face it: Burgers, brats and beer don’t exactly scream health foods. So how can you tailgate without packing on as many pounds as a linebacker? If you like to grill, try choosing leaner cuts of meat or poultry (consider adding this fruit to ground turkey for healthier, juicier burgers) or try these simple sandwich and chili makeovers. Drink light beer instead of high-calorie alcohol like margaritas and sangria. For dessert, consider making these under 100-calorie brownies or serving fruit skewers with melted dark chocolate. (Find out why you should eat dark chocolate every day!) If your downfall is greasy potato chips or fattening dips, swap in these healthier game-day snack options recommended by Hungry Girl author Lisa Lillien.
2. Don’t get sidelined by spoiled food
The last thing you want is to get sick before the game. So here’s what you can do for safe outdoor eating. For starters, make sure you separate raw from ready-to-eat foods. Raw meat juices can contaminate other foods and lead to food poisoning. It’s also a good idea to bring two sets of plates and cooking utensils: one set for handling raw foods and a second set for cooked foods to avoid transferring bacteria. Be sure to cook meats thoroughly — hamburgers to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and chicken breasts to 165 degrees. And don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. Pack it in your cooler, surrounded by ice, to keep it edible.
3. Tackle grilling safely
While no tailgate is complete without a grill, cooking any kind of meat or veggies over charcoal or high heat generates two cancer-producing chemicals, PAHs and HCAs. We’re not saying you have to give up the joys of grilling altogether. Keith Roach, MD, chief medical officer of Sharecare and co-creator of the RealAge® Test, says you can reduce the risk of these chemicals by cooking on lower heat and marinating meat ahead of time.
4. Pass on too much alcohol
We’re all for popping open some cold ones at your next tailgate (as long as you’re 21 or older, of course), but drinking too much and nursing a hangover can put a damper on the rest of the weekend. Binge drinking is never a good idea, and now studies suggest that it can increase a young woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. You’ll still have a good time (and keep better track of the score!) if you drink in moderation. And don’t forget the designated driver!
5. Join the huddle
Tailgating is a great excuse to hang out with friends. But did you know that it could also be good for your health? Studies have repeatedly shown that social connections make your immune system stronger and help reduce stress. So grab your coolers, reach for your jersey and head out to the game!