What’s a football game without food? Even though food often takes center stage when you’re hanging out with friends and family to watch the big game, it doesn’t mean a day of tailgating has to wreak havoc on a healthy lifestyle.

Typical tailgate food is full of fat, sodium and calories. That’s part of the reason why it tastes so good! But short of swapping out much-anticipated game-day grub for a boring veggie tray, there are still ways to approach game day that won’t blow your dedication to a healthier heart or a smaller waistline.

We get it. You want to enjoy your favorite tailgate foods and drinks just like everyone else. So here are some suggestions that will help you do so without sacrificing your health or diet. After all, there’s no need to feel like a linebacker by the time the game is over, is there?

Make a Plan

If you know you’re going to be eating more than usual, get in some extra exercise to combat those additional calories. It’s also a good idea to have a snack before you head out that includes protein and fiber so you’re not starving when you get there. Survey what’s available and then put what you plan to eat on a plate – you’re less likely to overeat if you’re not just grazing from the table.

Watch Those Portions

Even though there’s a table full of food in front of you, it doesn’t mean you have to eat everything in sight. Instead, choose the foods you just have to have – and then have them. The key to a healthier tailgate is to let moderation be your guide and to focus on portion control.

Skip Everyday Items

If you eat burgers on a regular basis, no need to indulge on game day. Select foods that scream “tailgate” to you and that you likely only eat on occasions such as this. So if chicken wings are a game day staple, have a few. But skip the burgers, hoagies or anything else you can eat any other time.

Make Some Substitutions

Sure, you clearly notice a difference between dipping veggie sticks and chips in your favorite dip. But there are plenty of recipes where a bit less fat or a healthier substitution will barely change the taste. Chili is one food that can easily be made healthier. Add a few more beans and a bit less beef and you’ll lower the fat content and increase the fiber without altering the flavor.

Limit Alcohol

Not only does alcohol contribute a lot of empty calories but it also lowers your inhibitions, making it more likely you’ll overindulge. So if you’re going to drink, alternate alcoholic drinks with water or non-alcoholic (and non-sugary) beverages so you consume less.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/tips-for-terrific-tailgating#1

http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2012-09/stay-healthy-this-tailgating.html

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Have-a-Heart-Healthy-Football-Season_UCM_430990_Article.jsp#.WBlQrYWcGP8