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.
Drink water between light beers.
"Men tend to take in a huge amount of calories at tailgate parties from beer alone," Dulan says. "A lot of guys don't realize that a six-pack contains 900 calories. You'd need a 90-minute treadmill session to burn that off." To guzzle fewer calories, always go with light beer, Dulan says. Even if you're more of an IPA guy than a Miller Lite fan, remember: You're in a parking lot; you might as well save the good stuff for happy hour. But if you just have to have your favorite full-bodied craft brew, keep it to only one or two. Regardless, Dulan recommends drinking water between beers to keep you hydrated – and to keep you from reaching for the next one too soon.
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