Football and tailgating go hand in hand, but typical tailgate food isn't always healthy. Cheeseburgers, hotdogs, ribs, potato chips and dips often have high levels of fat and calories. What's more, grilling produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs), cancer-causing compounds that form when muscle meats are cooked over high heat. Fortunately, football fans can enjoy healthy tailgating by following five easy tips.
1. Incorporate more fruits and veggies into tailgate food. Fill trays with sliced vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli and cauliflower, and substitute hummus for fatty dips. Use prosciutto, fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fat-free dressing and skewers to create caprese on a stick. Replace high-calorie desserts with fresh orange wedges, grapes, watermelon, or apple slices.
2. Have fun with activity. Tailgating isn't just about the food. It's a time for relaxing and socializing with friends and family. Active games like tag, corn hole, Frisbee or football make a tailgate party healthier and more fun.
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3. Make smarter beverage choices. For healthy tailgating, make lighter choices when it comes to alcohol by packing the cooler with light beer or wine spritzers. For the kids, replace high-sugar sodas and concentrated fruit juices with bottled water, coconut water or infused water.
4. Stay hydrated. Having plenty of water available helps prevent dehydration on a hot day. Drinking H2O in between cocktails also helps counteract the effects of alcohol like headache and low energy.
5. Reduce HCAs for healthy tailgating. Studies show that well-cooked meat produces 3.5 times more HCAs than medium-rare meat. Research also shows that the use of ingredients like herbs and vinegar can reduce HCAs by 50 percent or more. Marinate chicken in a blend of white wine, garlic, thyme, rosemary and ginger for a yummy HCA-reducing recipe. Combine ground beef with dried cherries, garlic, a little honey, cumin, and dried chilies and grill to medium-rare.
Tailgating is an activity long-enjoyed by football fans, but football foods aren't always the best when it comes to the health. Fortunately, following the five tips above helps reduce fat, calories, alcohol content, and HCAs for happy, healthy tailgating.