Tailgating: The NFL Season Game-plan for Your Health

Tailgating – let’s not make it a gateway for sitting on your sofa and growing your tail.

Instead, let’s make it a social celebration that can actually give benefit to your body. The NFL’s 2014-2015 season got underway last Thursday, also kicking off the season for one of our favorite activities – fall tailgating. However, fill it with too many six-packs (unless referring to the abdominal variety), and too much pizza (unless referring to these 8 versions), and it can quickly become one of our tail’s – er, booty’s – worst nightmares.

Instead, follow our LifeVest guide to tailgating this season so you can fill up on fun without letting your weight rival that of your favorite NFL linebacker. Below, find a game-plan that’ll coach you off the couch from time to time, while also letting chow down on some of your favorite celebratory food. We want you to wake up feeling like a champ all season rather than crap. Let’s get to it.

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Eat It

While traditional tailgating food can start racking up the calories quickly, that doesn’t mean you need to cutout all your favorite touchdown classics. Keep your tastebuds satisfied and your body slim with these healthier versions of all your favorite standard seasonal fare.

  • Burgers: From Turkey Gorgonzola to Asian Salmon Sliders to Stuffed Portobello, Women’s Health brings a roundup of mouthwatering, body-friendly burger recipes to throw on your grill. Whether hitting the road or inviting guests to your place, simply mix up the ingredients ahead of time, and stash the patties in a cooler. When grill time arrives, you’ll be ready to go.
  • Buffalo Wings: Baked instead of fried, these buffalo wings from Food Network Mag cut significantly down on fat, especially when you swap out traditional blue cheese sauce with their suggested Blue Cheese Yogurt Dip. Although certainly lighter, it’s still important to keep moderation in mind here. For an even greater guilt-free version, check out these Cauliflower Buffalo Wings over at MindBodyGreen. Crispy on the outside and packed with that famous hot sauce heat (we recommend Frank’s RedHot for full buffalo flavor), these are surprisingly finger licking good.
  • Chili: Nothing pairs late season games with cool autumn temps better than a hearty bowl of chili. Luckily, with the spices being the MVP of the dish, you can easily trim the fat from this classic dish without sacrificing flavor. In fact, add seasonal items, like in this Red Book recipe for Sweet Potato Black Bean Turkey Chili or this meat-free Butternut Squash Chipotle Chili with Avocado from Cookie and Kate, and you’ll land yourself a bowl with even more flavor than your boring old ground beef variation. Keep them warm in a crockpot, whether it’s in the trunk of your car or your kitchen counter just steps from the TV.
  • Dips to Veg. Out: Filling up on veggies is a great way to snack and socialize without doing any damage to your waistline. Ditch the chips and pair them with this recipe from Epicurious for 5-Minute Black Bean Dip or this Southwestern Layered Bean Dip from Eating Well to add some protein and extra flavor to your celery sticks and carrot chips. If you must keep a bag of tortillas on hand, reach for a baked version at the store vs. one of their fried counterparts.
  • Pizza: As we said above, you can’t go wrong with these 8 recipes! Pass the Margherita Cauliflower Pizza, please.

Mint mojito

Drink It

Alcohol is often one of the sneakiest sources of calories and sugar, and a not-so-sneaky source for making you feel like crap the next morning. At LifeVest, we’d recommend making your bubbles little other than seltzer and lime so you can save your calories for even tastier treats and your headaches for when sickness call. However, if an alcoholic drink in hand is a must for celebration, we’re fine to cheers to that, as long as it’s in moderation. Limit yourself to 1-2 drinks, and keep these tips in mind.

  • For cocktails: Limit yourself to one shot per drink. While 1 1/2 ounces may appear small, the calories it packs in average around 100, which is comparable to a 5 oz. glass of wine or standard light beer. Be sure to also steer clear of overly sugary drinks, like margaritas that’ll also pack in 150 calories per glass, and stick with simpler, purer drinks like a mint mojito or gin and tonic.
  • For beer: The higher the alcohol content, the more calories you can expect to take in, which is what enables most “light” beers to stay within 100-120 calories. Women’s Health has the breakdown on the best light beers for every situation, although if seeking a bit more flavor, check out this roundup from FitBie of 8 beers that won’t sneak in too many calories. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re going to reach for a beer, choose a variety that’ll bring you the most satisfaction, which will enable you to more easily stick to just one. Then, rule out about 200 calories worth from the snack table. We can understand that sometimes a beer comes as a seemingly necessary tradition to NFL tailgating, so savor just one and know it may be worth far more than that handful of potato chips you’re avoiding instead.
  • Spice it up: If shaking up your own drink recipe, consider adding a few healthful ingredients for a fun, flavorful, beneficial twist. Think fresh ginger in your light vodka lemondrop, raspberries in your mint mojito, or a heavy dose of antioxidant-rich cinnamon in a hot, delicately spiked cider.

Victory Dance

Move It

Whether you’re chilling by your car or seated on your sofa, taking breaks to get up and move around every once in awhile will make game time a much better time – especially for your health. Research shows watching too much TV is detrimental to your health, but adding some movement as a part of that activity can greatly reverse those startling study results. Make it like a game and get your friends/family to join in, too, and likely it’ll make your watching experience even more entertaining.

  • The Touchdown Dance: For many, dancing is one of the funnest forms of exercise. Pair it with a just-scored touchdown, and whether you like boogying or not, you’re bound to find some enjoyment in the natural fitness activity. So, after every touchdown scored, get up and do a little dance however your body feels inspired to move. We’re challenging you to do this for every single one – whether it comes from the team you’re rooting for or not – so consider creating a different dance to do depending on which team scores. Get everyone in the room/area around you to join, and see if you can make a 5-minute activity of it after every football reaches success in the end zone.
  • The Commercial Break Calorie Burn: If you’re “tailgating” at your own house, i.e., inviting some company over to enjoy the game, team up together for the Commercial Break Calorie Burn challenge. Choose an activity to execute at every commercial break, alternating between legs, arms, and cardio. For those who try to skip out, make sure to give them a crowd-roaring “Booooo” until they feel obliged to join in. Here’s a sample game-plan to get you started:
    • Commercial #1: Get everyone in the room to drop down and do 2 minutes of pushups.
    • Commercial #2: Do two sets of 20 lunges, jumping up and down in place. For the extra field goal point, fit in one extra set before the game comes back on.
    • Commercial #3: Take two deep breathes, and then begin a set of 50 jumping jacks.
    • Commercial #4: Plank it. Challenge up your core and arms and see if you can hold a plank for the entirety of the commercial break! If needed, take breaks, but continue to push in and out of it until the advertisements end.
    • Commercial #5: Complete two sets of 15 squats. Send a high five to all your comrades in the room.
    • Commercial #6: Do one minute of ski jumps.
    • Repeat, starting at activity #1, or throw in some other ideas, such as tricep dips, bicycle sit-ups, high knees, burpees, etc. Use Google search to your advantage to seek out new ideas in the event the above get stale by the end of the season.

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