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.
Mind your meat.
Good luck finding a tailgate party that isn't serving some type of meat. "Typically at tailgate parties, the biggest sources of fat and calories are barbecued ribs, deep-fried chicken wings, hot dogs, and brats," Dulan says. "Even before you add the bun and condiments, hot dogs have about 140 calories and a whopping 12 grams of fat. Brats have almost 200 calories and 17 grams of fat. Neither has very much protein. And guys rarely eat only one."
You should skip the über-processed meats and gristly beef and pork ribs altogether, Dulan says. Instead, grill – do not fry – lean chicken breasts or pork tenderloins, which have far less fat and more protein to fill you up. If you're dead set on wings, Dulan suggests baking them in the oven at home instead of deep-frying. For all meat, use dry rubs made from spices and fresh herbs rather than saucy marinades packed with oil, butter, salt, and sugar.
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