Healthy Food Options for Your Football Tailgate

Barbecuing at a Tailgate
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The smell of football is in the air -the fantasy teams have been drafted and the preseason games are winding down. Some football fans have been waiting for opening day all year. And for season ticket holders or patrons who just love to go to a game, that probably means you'll be participating in some tailgates. Whether you've had diabetes for a while or have just been diagnosed, sometimes gatherings, like tailgates, can become stressful without a game plan.

One of the key factors in being able to live a happy life with diabetes is to learn how to eat in context. Whether you are attending a football party or planning a tailgate, you can still enjoy it and make good choices. Preparing things that you know you'll enjoy and are healthy, will get you geared up for game day. 

What Can I Eat?

Skewers: Nothing says football like barbecue. Skip the high-calorie options like chicken wings and spare ribs, and enjoy chicken or lean beef skewers, which are rich in filling protein, vitamin b12, and contain no carbohydrates. Avoid barbecue sauce which can have hidden sources of carbohydrate and simply marinate in garlic, olive oil, and herbs. For an added fiber and filling factor, add some non-starchy vegetables to your skewers - peppers, tomato, onion, etc. 

Burgers: There is no reason why you can't enjoy a beef (90-95% lean) or chicken burger. In addition to being rich in protein, vitamin B12, an important nutrient in metabolism and nerve function, beef and chicken are rich in chromium which can assist in insulin action. Just be sure it is an appropriate portion (~4-6oz) and avoid high fat additions such as bacon, full-fat cheese or mayonnaise. Instead, throw some sauteed onions and mushrooms on top. Skip the ketchup and try some mustard or hot sauce or a dollop of guacamole for added heart-healthy fat. Purchase whole grain buns for added fiber and slower blood sugar rise. 

Chili: Chili is usually a crowd-pleaser. Simple, delicious, full of flavor, fiber (if you add beans) and protein, chili is a great alternative to high sodium meats such as hot dogs and sausage. And if you add beans, you'll ingest some folate, an important nutrient for red blood cell production. The key to eating chili is to monitor the toppings - skip the sour cream and sprinkle ​on some low-fat shredded cheese, avocado or spicy salsa. To lower the fat content in a chili recipe, use 90-95% lean ground beef, white meat turkey or ground chicken.​

Coleslaw: The base of coleslaw, cabbage, is a cruciferous vegetable that is low in carbohydrates and rich in fiber. In addition, some prospective cohort studies have shown that consumption of five or more cruciferous vegetables weekly has been associated with significant reductions in cancer. You can actually make a healthy "slaw" by cutting out the sugar and reducing the mayonnaise and adding non-fat Greek yogurt for creaminess. 

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Article Sources

  • Linus Pauling Institute's Micronutrient Information Center. Micronutrients for Health.
  • Linus Pauling Institutes's Micronutrient Information Center: Isothiocyanates.