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Fall means football. And aside from cheering for your favorite college and NFL Teams, football also often means tailgating. Games are now often several days each week – Thursday night, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night. Heck, even the occasional Friday night game is tossed in there meaning potentially 5 tailgating opportunities each week!  As a reminder, there are only 7 days in a week (you’re welcome) not leaving many days without a drinking & eating fest. 

While in the moment those drinks, snacks and calorie-laden foods are tempting, if more days than not are filled with these foods (and drinks), your Rhone clothing may be a bit less comfortable as Dad Bod takes shape.

I’m not here to be a fun sponge and say tailgating be damned, but what if I offer some better alternatives to enjoy before and during the games that will leave you feeling great versus that uncomfortable feeling after eating and drinking too much?  

Let’s look at five smarter tailgating options that you can enjoy and fuel your body to feel and perform your best, just like the athletes you’re watching on TV. Knowing you’re likely to overeat and overdrink, consider these options that are a bit more forgiving and won’t leave you feeling uncomfortable, bloated and frankly, guilt-ridden.  

Here’s the key: aim for a combo of protein, fiber and/or fat. Each of the options I suggest provides for on-the-go noshing during the game.  

Out: Buffalo Wings.

In: Loaded Buffalo Dip with Veggie Sticks

I was once at a restaurant that offered “low carb wings.” I asked what low carb wings meant and it meant they didn’t serve the celery and carrot sticks that normally come with it. In other words, they didn’t serve the only redeeming quality of wings themselves! If you too are a wings fan, you might crave that buffalo sauce flavor on wings that will, of course, be dipped in blue cheese. This dip offers that same flavor but replaces the fat and calories with belly-filling fiber and protein to feed your muscles. 

It comes from a friend and colleague, registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of Superfood Swap and Sports Nutritionist for the Chicago Cubs. She says, “I LOVE making Loaded Buffalo Hummus w/ carrot & celery sticks. I simply take regular store-bought plain hummus and top it w/ no-sugar-added buffalo sauce, crumbled blue cheese, and chopped green onion. Seems fancy, but [it’s] super easy. And it’s a fun way to eat them veggies!” 

It’s also void of the calories and fat that normally accompany wings and the blue cheese dressing.


Out: Chips.

In: Pistachios

Chips are so last year!  Instead, try pistachios - guests will be “entertained” cracking the shell and that actually may slow down the speed at which you can consume them to allow you to be more mindful of your eating. In other words, that’s a win. Kind of hard to mindlessly eat pistachios in the shell – tossing a handful of those in your mouth won’t be too enjoyable!  Even better, pistachios provide vitamins, fiber, protein and nearly 90% of the fat in this tasty snack is the better-for-you kind. Put that all together and it means keeping bowls of in-shell pistachios around on the coffee table or end tables may keep the mindless snacking to a minimum while you and your guests embrace some quality nutrients (and super high-quality flavor). My personal go to? Wonderful Pistachios, Sweet Chili Flavored.

Out: Ranch Dip.  In: Guacamole 

Did you know there is enough guac served during the Super Bowl to fill several football fields?  We’re still months away from that day, but guac is still prevalent probably most other Sundays as well. And it’s a great option. Mash up avocado, sprinkle some salt (and add cilantro and jalapenos, if you want some kick). Then put a bunch of veggies around to dip in the guac. Avocados are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat, provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, and even offer some fiber. Since you don’t eat nutrients, you eat flavors, guac has the added bonus of tasting amazing. 

Out: Queso Cheese Dip.

In: Spicy Hummus

Save the queso cheese dip for the times you’re actually at the game and you’re really jonesing for some chips and dip. But when you’re tailgating or home, why not consider something with a little more, ahem, pizazz and maybe even a bit of heat. Enter Spicy Hummus.

“Tailgating is serious business for this sports fan,” says Dana White, cookbook author, registered dietitian and certified athletic trainer. “I want to be fueled and ready to watch the game so I choose snacks that are savory, crunchy and satisfying. My go-to picks have a spicy kick! Carrot sticks and hummus - Trader Joe's Cilantro and Jalapeno or Tribe Everything Hummus.” 

Out: Wings.

In: Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Sriracha

Wings are usually fried, greasy and can be messy. Want to take it up a notch and really impress your guests without spending hours in the kitchen? Try these Sticky Chicken Lettuce Cups with plenty of Sriracha Sauce from White. “People don’t typically celebrate wings themselves – it’s actually the sauce they’re cooked in or served with,” says White. “The option I created is tastier, offers significantly less fat, and calories and won’t break the calorie bank.” 


There you have it. This football season – and really any other time you might be together with friends celebrating (which of course means food will be present) – give any of these five ideas a try. You won’t break the calorie bank and instead, you’ll fuel your body with quality nutrition with options that all taste great.


Chris Mohr has a Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Nutrition from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Massachusetts, respectively. He earned his PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Registered Dietitian. To get more nutritional tips for Chris, follow him on Instagram: @mohrresults





2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
¼ cup mild honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Serving suggestions: lettuce leaves, shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, lime wedges, Sriracha


Place chicken and cornstarch in a large resealable bag; close bag and toss to coat the pieces in cornstarch. Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Add soy sauce and cook for 1 minute before adding honey and sesame seeds. Continue to cook, tossing frequently until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through,  about 7 to 10 minutes.  Serve chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves and topped with desired toppings. Recipe courtesy of 

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