Healthy eating tips for tailgating or any other party!

Fall is here which means time for football season and tailgating parties!  These events are tons of fun but they can also be a challenge if you're trying to lose weight or manage your diabetes.  Whether you're attending a football game at the stadium or watching a game at home, here are some healthy eating tips to enjoy the game day festivities without overdoing it.

Healthy game day tips

  • Choose smaller portions of your favorite foods.
  • Eat your food slowly and think twice before going back for second helpings.
  • Fill your plate with plenty of non-starchy vegetables.
  • Focus on the game and the social festivities instead of unhealthy snacks and treats.
  • Park your fold out chair away from the food table.
  • During half-time or between quarters, take a walk break to get some exercise.  Set a timer on your phone to get up and move every thirty minutes.

Offer to bring something 

Tailgating parties are not typically known for healthy foods but why not bring a healthier dish or side, like a vegetable tray with hummus or some fresh fruit.  If you don't have time to chop up fresh fruit or veggies, your local grocery store is likely to have veggie trays in the produce section for sharing.  Another option is to offer to host a party at your house where you can provide healthy snacks.  Here are some healthier choices to bring to a party:

  • Lean ground beef (93%), veggie burger or chicken for a cookout
  • Whole wheat hotdog or hamburger buns or cut out the bun all together for a lower carb option
  • A healthy side like tabbouleh, broccoli salad, healthy slaw or a simple side salad
  • Guacamole with pepper slices and baby carrots
  • Whole grain crackers with lower fat cheese

Here are some healthier game day recipes:

Vegetable Platter with Hummus – It's amazing how people will eat more veggies when they are in front of them, displayed well and served with a good dip. Hummus is a healthy dip made from chickpeas and comes in a variety of flavors.

Vegetables with Triple Duty Ranch Dip with Dill – The herbs and spices in this dip add a lot of bold flavor and go well with nonstarchy vegetables.

Fruit and Cheese Kabobs – This is a simple and healthy addition to any party.  You can experiment with different fruits too.

Hummus Deviled Eggs – Try this twist on traditional deviled eggs by adding hummus instead of mayo. Your guests will enjoy them just as much!

Healthy Taco Dip – Check out this healthier version of taco dip.  By using a healthier fat such as avocado and reduced-fat versions of cheese you save lots of calories without giving up any taste.

Baked Hot Wings with Cilantro Lime Dip – This is a healthier version of hot wings that you and other football-loving fans will love! Instead of bleu cheese dressing, try this tasty Cilantro Lime Dip. Baking instead of frying is a great way to reduce calories.


Along with food, many tailgates include alcohol. If you plan to drink alcohol, follow these tips:

  • Check with your health care team about whether it is safe for you to drink alcohol.
  • If you have diabetes, do not drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low, since your risk of low blood glucose increases after drinking.
  • Don't skip a meal if you are going to drink. (If you use carbohydrate counting to plan meals, it is important to understand how the drinks you choose affect your blood glucose and often your insulin dose will need to be decreased if having more than one drink)
  • Drinking alcohol can cause a drop in blood glucose because alcohol blocks the production of glucose in the liver. (The liver contains "emergency stores" of glucose to raise your blood sugar if it drops too low.)  Once the liver's stores of glucose are depleted, a person who has drank a lot of alcohol can't make more right away, and that can lead to dangerously low blood glucose or even death.
  • Also, alcohol is processed by your liver, which is responsible for removing toxins (like alcohol or drugs) and processing medication, so if you are taking other pills, drinking too much alcohol can cause damage to your liver. 
  • People with diabetes need to use the same guidelines as those without diabetes if they choose to drink:
  • Women: no more than 1 drink per day.
  • Men: no more than 2 drinks per day.
  • *One drink is equal to a 12 oz beer, 5 oz glass of wine or 1 ½ oz distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.).
  • Choose lighter options like light beer or wine spritzers.  Sugary mixers and drinks like punch, margaritas, and heavy beers can add a lot of calories

Remember, most foods can be consumed in moderation. Choosing smaller portions of your favorite foods can help you manage your weight and diabetes.   Don't forget to get some extra steps between quarters and at halftime!

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*Estimates are rounded to the nearest 200 calories. An individual's calorie needs may be higher or lower than these average estimates. Developed from the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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