As the summer heat slowly gives way to refreshing fall evenings, there’s a distinct excitement in the air that means football season is here! And there’s nothing like a good tailgate party before the big game. Whether it’s outside the stadium or in your neighbor’s backyard, here are some tips to eat healthy and eat safe during your next tailgating party.
No matter how simple or elaborate, the main ingredient to a great tailgate party is plenty of good food! As with any celebration, it’s easy to overindulge or eat too many fatty foods. Instead of burgers and steaks, try new dishes with fish or chicken. If you really need that burger, use chopped turkey instead – it’s much leaner and has a great taste.
Chips and cheese dip are among the most popular snack items, but they pack a large amount of calories and fat before you get to the main course. Instead, try baked tortilla chips or pita chips with fresh salsa or hummus for less calories and more nutrients.
Traditional potato salads and pastas can be high in calories and fat. Try adding your favorite vegetables to the grill, like corn, peppers, tomatoes and more. You can even grill fresh fruit, like bananas, pineapples, and peaches. Grilling fruit enhances its natural sweetness, and it’s healthier than cookies and cake.
A unique arrangement of fresh fruit can double as a centerpiece for your table. A low-fat fruit dip will complement nicely, using low-fat yogurt and additional flavors to suit your taste.
Another thing to consider when planning your next tailgating event is keeping yourself and others safe from food borne illness. Bacteria can spread at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees. Food should not be kept at that temperature for more than two hours. If the temperature outside is 90 degrees or above, don’t keep it out for more than an hour.
Other tips to avoid food borne illness include:
- Cook chicken to 170 degrees internally and burgers to 160 degrees to ensure they are fully cooked. Use a food thermometer to check if you’re not sure.
- If you’re planning to cook meat and poultry at the game, be sure to do so within two hours of leaving home. Do not remove from the cooler until the grill is ready.
- Use insulated coolers for transporting hot dishes, and separate these from beverages and other perishable items.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly when handling food, or keep pre-moistened towelettes or hand sanitizer nearby.