Tailoring your Tiger Tailgate

Well, it's that time of year again. A time of pre-game tailgating, football viewing parties, and post-game celebrations. As a New Orleans native and LSU Tiger fan, I must say I've experienced some of the best tailgates anyone could imagine. There is nothing like some good old Southern Hospitality as you walk the grounds of the most dedicated football fans in Louisiana. But, with that Southern Hospitality comes FOOD. Lots and lots of delicious Southern Comfort food. Some popular Louisiana tailgate dishes include: Jambalaya, Seafood and Andouille Gumbo, Fried Catfish, Hot Boudin sausage and the traditional BBQ dishes such as Hamburgers, BBQ chicken, Pulled pork sandwiches, and more!

Tailgating is not just in Louisiana; it is an All-American tradition! It would be wrong of me to tell tailgaters to completely change their favorite football foods, but here are some ideas to Tailor your Tailgate in a healthy way!

Small changes to menu items can make a big difference in the nutritional content of your meal.

This football season, try to:
  • Choose lean cuts of meat such as:
    • Skinless chicken
    • Loin/round of beef
    • Extra Lean ground beef
    • Ground Turkey
    • Pork Loin
    • Turkey Sausage
  • Cook with Olive oil or Canola oil
  • Use 100% whole wheat hamburger and hot dog buns
  • Throw some fresh vegetable on the grill- spice/season them up!
  • Create your own fruit tray
  • Prepare finger sandwiches on whole wheat bread
  • Serve salsa, hummus, and bean dips with:
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    • Whole grain crackers
More Tailgating Tips:
  • Take a step back from the tables of food and browse at the choices before digging in.
  • Always go for the grilled options.
  • Watch your portions: fill your plate with more fruits and veggies rather than meat and rice dishes.
  • Sip water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
  • Snack on fruits, veggies, baked chips, and nuts instead of cookies and other sweets.
  • Monitor alcohol intake. Alcohol calories add up extremely fast. More importantly, it has NO sports performance benefit. Be smart when it comes to alcohol.
  • Balance is key! No food is good or bad. All foods fit into your nutrition plan if you make sensible choices.

Here are some substitutions that can decrease the fat and calories in many of the typical tailgate foods:

Instead of:
High fat beef burgers
Extra lean beef or ground turkey burgers
White buns
100% Whole wheat buns
Gumbo/ Jambalaya made with white rice and smoked sausage
Gumbo/ Jambalaya made with brown rice and smoked turkey sausage
Cheesy spinach dip or queso dip with potato chips
Chunky salsa, low fat bean dip, or hummus with raw veggies, baked chips, or whole wheat pita bread
Fried chicken and Fried fish
BBQ or grilled chicken and fish
Sodas, Sweet Tea, Fruit punch, other flavored beverages
Water, Unsweet Tea, Diet soda, Crystal Light

Food Safety is a must for all tailgates.
From the time you buy the food from the grocery to when you pack up all your leftovers, you should always keep your food safe.

  • Chop and prep meats and vegetables the day before, using separate knives and cutting boards to prevent contamination.
  • Pack raw meats and vegetables separately in a cooler, tighly in foil, and cover completely with ice.
  • Have a food thermometer on hand and clean after each use.
  • Cook all foods to a safe temperature:
    • Fish: 145 degrees
    • Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb, and Egg Dishes: 160 degrees
    • Poultry, Casseroles, and Leftovers: 165 degrees
  • Wrap leftovers in foil and store in ice.
  • Throw out all refrigerated foods that have been sitting out for over 2 hours.

Have a happy and healthy football season!
Best of luck to your favorite teams!