A vital part of any football game day experience is tailgating. Dietitian Julie Feldman, ’96, MPH’99, shares how you can indulge in the traditional tailgate fare without adding penalties to your caloric bottom line.

feldman_265x265With the exception of 10 seconds on Oct. 17, 2015, I had the very best day in classic football Saturday fashion. We felt the energy emanating from Ann Arbor as we made our way down M-14; the fans lined up along Main Street added brush strokes to the painting. It was game day. And with game day comes tailgating, by far my favorite annual tradition.

I’m fortunate that my parents create a beautiful tailgate for each and every home game that I attend. Omelets, chicken wings, sliders, chilidogs—you name it! When tailgating, it’s a clean slate before the game—no score, no calls to argue—just the anticipation of a great game.

While I do like to lose myself in the college game-day ambiance, I am always wearing my dietitian hat. No matter how much I wish to pretend that I am 19 years old, the reality of a day spent indulging in several beverage and food options just doesn’t work out well in the end. However, tailgating can be amazing, nostalgic, and nutritious. Win or lose, you can still feel good about yourself and the choices that you make.

Check out this game plan for fun, savory, nutritious hand-held snacks any tailgating crowd is sure to enjoy.

Savory sliders: Mini tuna burgers made from canned tuna and shredded veggies served up on lettuce cups or one-third of a whole wheat hot dog bun makes for a high protein, low-calorie popper. And what Wolverine wouldn’t appreciate the brain-boosting power of the high omega-3s found in tuna. This is the perfect alternative for your gluten-free, vegetarian guests.
Cup o’chili: Shot glasses full of chili make for the best warm-me-up bite. Chili can be vegetarian or made from lean ground beef or white meat chicken or turkey and packed with beans for a high-fiber, high-protein touchdown.
Nacho nibbles: Using baked tortilla chips or even slices of cucumber, tiny hand-held nachos add a flare to any table. Top them with heart-healthy guacamole, low-fat sour cream, and vegetarian refried beans for a dish even your gluten-free guests can enjoy.
Brownie bites: Single-bite desserts made from healthier ingredients allow you and your guests to enjoy something sweet without breaking the calorie bank. You can even try something unconventional, like avocado brownies.

These snacks offer a similar psychological euphoria as traditional tailgate fare without adding penalties to your caloric bottom line. Let’s face it, the only number we really want to be high at the end of the day is our total offensive yards, not our total calorie input.

Julie Feldman, ’96, MPH’99, is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, speaker, and author. Visit her website at www.dietitianjuliefeldman.com.