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.
Make your own side dishes.
"Even if they appear healthful, side items like beans and potato salads and antipasto mixes are also sneaky sources of calories and fat – especially most premade dishes from the deli," says Dulan. They're often made with high-fat dressings, vegetable oils, mayo, or heavy cream. But with a little prep work, you can create your own sides that are a lot healthier and just as flavorful. If you're following a recipe, Dulan suggests using less oil than it calls for and choosing olive, almond, or macadamia nut oil instead of canola or corn oils, which have more saturated fat. She says low-sodium soy sauce also adds awesome flavor. And for cream-based sides, just as with creamy dips, use Greek yogurt or light sour cream instead of mayo. Also try swapping noodles, which are devoid of nutrients, for a protein- and fiber-rich grain such as quinoa.
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