6 tips for beating the battle of the bulge during tailgating season

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While our favorite teams will be duking it out on the gridiron this fall, spectators and tailgaters will be engaged in a different sort of battle in parking lots and homes across the country.

According to a Harris Interactive survey, 1 in 4 football fans will have gained an average of 10 pounds by the end of the season, and about 1 in 6 will have packed on a whopping 20 pounds.

How well your team plays also influences the way you eat. According to a study published in Psychological Science, after the game, fans of the losing team gorged on saturated fats and sugars, while those of the winning team chose healthier foods.

To help guide us to a victory in our battle of the bulge, Mon Health Cardiologist Samantha Crites offers these healthy tailgating tips.

Edemame with sea salt1. Create a game plan.“It’s going to be all about your preparation as far as what food you bring with you,” said Dr. Crites.

Planning ahead is key because as you drink alcoholic beverages, your willpower weakens. So if you don’t have fatty snacks and foods on hand, you won’t be able to pig out on them.

Recommendations for healthy snack options include fresh, sliced vegetables or edamame in the pod. A cup of edamame (young soybeans) meets 1/3 of your daily fiber and protein needs.

For your main dish, grill an extra lean meat such as venison, which is high in protein but low in fat. Grilled chicken is also a good option. Pair with grilled vegetables, and you have a delicious, healthy meal.

Filet kabobs“You should also encourage friends and family attending your tailgate to bring healthy options too,” Dr. Crites said.

2. Don’t go hungry. Eat a healthy breakfast that will stick with you, such as oatmeal topped with fruit. “If you go into those situations hungry, there’s no turning back,” Dr. Crites said.

3. Make small changes. Swap regular chips for baked, and instead of the traditional dip, try salsa.

And try substituting veggie dip with hummus or guacamole. While the fat content will remain high, you’ll be eating a healthier type of fat.

4. Pace yourself. If you’re drinking alcohol, be sure to consume plenty of water. Sure, you’ll have to go to the bathroom more, but that means you’ll also get some extra exercise. Remember, alcohol is full of empty calories and should always be consumed in moderation.

5. Don’t just sit there. Get up and walk around. Check out other people’s tailgates. Toss a football around. Play cornhole, or anything that gets you moving.

6. Work out the day before and the day after. 

The bottom line: Consider game day your cheat day. While you still want to make healthy choices, find that happy medium where you’re not restricting yourself so much that if you crack, you hit that point of no return.

“If you do indulge in unhealthy eating, don’t participate in unsafe behaviors like purging and fad dieting because of guilt,” Dr. Crites said. “Just make healthier food choices moving forward.”

Looking for some heart healthy recipes for your tailgate? Check out these recipes.