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.
Oftentimes at tailgate parties, the devil's in the dips. Whether it's a creamy artichoke, spinach, or crab dip or a seven-layer Mexican fiesta, they usually include full-fat sour cream, mayo, cheese, and not a lot of nutrition. (Sorry, a few specks of spinach in a gooey white substance don't count for much.) When a recipe calls for mayo or sour cream, Dulan suggests using light sour cream, light ranch dressing, or Greek yogurt instead. "Greek yogurt has protein, making it much more satisfying," she says. And go with black beans instead of refried in nacho cheese and layered dips.
Dulan's also a big fan of guacamole. "Avocados are a great source of healthy fat and are very filling," she explains. But skip store-bought guac, which can have unnecessary oil or sour cream, and make it yourself. Dulan's recipe is easy: Mash three avocados together with one diced tomato, the juice of one lime, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1.5 teaspoons of cumin, half a teaspoon of sea salt, and 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro.
Freshly made salsa is a fantastic, low-calorie, nutrient-packed option, says Dulan. You can even mix it up and go beyond the traditional tomato base by using fresh fruit instead. Try Dulan's strawberry salsa, which is just a mixture of 2 cups of hulled and finely chopped strawberries, 2 peeled and finely chopped kiwis, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro.
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