October 9, 2014

Vanderbilt health educator offers tips for healthy tailgating

Grilled vegetables are healthy and satisfying. (iStock)
Grilled vegetables are healthy and satisfying. (iStock)

It’s football season—and that means game day parties and tailgating.

What if there was a way to enjoy game day snacks without having to join the team workout to burn them off?

Vanderbilt health educator Stacey Kendrick offers hope:  “Tailgate food is notorious for being high in fat and calories, but It’s not too hard to make these snacks healthy with just a few tweaks,” she says.

Kendrick says that she and her husband love to entertain during football season and for their own benefit started making healthier snacks that were low fat, whole grain and incorporated fruits and vegetables.

“The easiest tweak is to simply find low-fat substitutions for the ingredients you are already using. There are low-fat versions of cheese, sour cream, yogurt and mayonnaise and they taste just as good in your favorite recipes,” Kendrick said.

She adds that there are also many vegetarian substitutes that are full of flavor but low in fat and cholesterol.

Stacey Kendrick’s game day favorites

·         Better buffalo chicken wings: Kendrick is quick to point out that buffalo wings, behind the trademark orange sauce, are “essentially just fried skin with little meat, dunked in fat-laden blue cheese.” Simply tweaking the recipe from fried wings to grilled chicken tenderloins yields a lean and healthy snack ready for dipping.  Kendrick recommends pairing them with low-fat blue cheese you can buy or easily make.

·         Better burgers: Kendrick says that simply switching from full-size burgers to sliders is one way to keep the grilling tradition, but with a healthier portion size. Another tip is grilling up leaner turkey burger sliders or portobello mushrooms and putting them on whole-grain buns, topped with crunchy vegetables.

·         Kebabing along: Grilling vegetable kebabs creates a tasty tailgating snack that is easy to eat while mingling with friends. Among Kendrick’s favorites: zucchini, peppers, onions and tomatoes.

·         Pizza variation: Kendrick says that grilled veggie flatbread is a new take on pizza. “It’s so easy. You just take store-bought flat bread and add pizza sauce and low-fat cheese. Then you can start piling on the veggies and stick it on the grill or in the oven.”

·         Better chips and dips:  “Instead of creamy dips and greasy chips, try fresh salsa with baked chips or make a dip at home with low fat sour cream and lots of veggies,” Kendrick says.

·         Mini-quesadillas: Kendrick makes these with whole-grain tortillas, beans and low-fat cheese.

One great reason for healthy eating at the tailgate party is that, once inside, the concession stand fare takes a turn for the unhealthy. “It’s hard to fight the temptation,” Kendrick says. “The secret is planning and getting something to eat ahead of time so you don’t get hungry at the stadium.”

—T.J. Utset