With football season finally here, pregame tailgating is in full swing. And who doesn't love a good parking lot party with great friends, flowing beer, and a spread that could rival any Super Bowl party? The only trouble is, if you don't watch it, tailgating can do a number on your waistline. Traditional favorites like chicken wings, cheese dip, brats, and burgers are fat-packed calorie bombs that offer laughably little nutrition, and beer and booze sack you with hundreds of empty calories. Indulging once in a while won't kill you, of course, but stuffing your face with this stuff week after week will leave you loosening your belt by season's end.
To help make your tailgate parties a whole lot healthier, we called in nutrition ace Mitzi Dulan, registered dietitian and team nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals. Dulan also spent eight years as the Kansas City Chiefs' team nutritionist, where she helped future NFL Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez transform his diet from fast food and pizza to lean protein, veggies, and unprocessed foods. Together, she and Gonzalez wrote the book The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Live Like a Champion (Rodale, 2009). Here, Dulan shares her top tips for cutting calories and fat before the big game without sacrificing flavor.
Build a better burger.
"To have a more healthful pregame party, you don't even have to abandon the burger," says Dulan. We think that's great news, since tailgating often becomes one giant burger waft, making it tough to resist a juicy patty hot off the grill. Just make sure to buy lean or extra-lean ground beef. Dulan likes Laura's Lean Ground Sirloin, which is 96 percent fat free and has 140 calories, 24 grams of protein, and 4.5 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving. Experiment by mixing diced garlic, onions, chili powder, and different herbs in with your patties, and serve them on whole-wheat buns instead of white buns for added fiber. As for burger size, "don't go bigger than one-third pound," Dulan says. And while sliders might sound like a good way to eat less meat, they definitely won't be if you eat two or three mini burgers – with a bun on each – which winds up being more calories than one regular-size burger.
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