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.
Lighten up your cocktails.
Bloody Marys, screwdrivers, and other mixed drinks pack a calorie punch, too. The alcohol alone is caloric: Vodka and rum both have 64 calories per ounce – and chances are you sneak in more than one shot's worth when mixing up cocktails at your buddy's makeshift bar. If you pair booze with sugary fruit juices or meal-in-a-glass Bloody Mary mixes, you're talking serious calories.
For a lighter cocktail that's super easy to make, Dulan suggests her Skinny Cape Cod. Just mix 6 ounces of zero-calorie lime-flavored sparkling water (choose a brand such as LaCroix that doesn't use artificial sweeteners) with 1 ounce cranberry juice and 1 ounce vodka. Or, treat the whole crew to Dulan's Skinny Sangria. The night before the game (or the morning of, if it's an afternoon or nighttime event), pour a bottle of red wine into a pitcher and drop in 2 cups of hulled, sliced strawberries. Cover and chill in the fridge for four or five hours. At the party, add in two 12-ounce cans of lime-flavored sparkling water and a few scoopfuls of ice. Pour the sangria into glasses and garnish with a few more fresh strawberries. The whole batch serves 10 tailgaters.
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