Published on 10/25/17

UGA Extension offers tips on healthy, nutritious game day foods

By Hannah Wilson

Football season is here. Whether you are tailgating at the game or hosting a game day party at home, following a few easy tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension can ensure you have a fun, healthy game day.

Some popular game day party foods are more nutritious than others. While it is OK to incorporate a few of your favorite cheesy dips or sweet desserts into the menu, you should also choose vegetable, fruit and whole-grain dishes that contain a variety of nutrients. Salsa, guacamole, chili, soup containing vegetables, pasta salad with vegetables, or broccoli salad made with low-fat mayonnaise or yogurt offer a variety of vitamins and minerals that are not found in queso dip.

If making queso dip is non-negotiable, serve it with vegetables, such as sliced bell peppers, broccoli or carrot sticks, to increase the nutrient content. Vegetables also contain fiber, which will fill you up and keep you from grazing throughout the entire game. In addition, avocados are a great source of healthy fats.

For dishes that include grains, choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread or buns, whole-grain corn, or whole-wheat tortillas or tortilla chips, and brown rice. Whole grains offer more vitamins, minerals and fiber than refined grains and are an easy way to improve the nutritional quality of your dishes.

Use low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise. Many popular game day dishes, such as nachos, dips, chili, baked potatoes and deviled eggs, are topped with sour cream as a condiment or include mayonnaise as an ingredient. Low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt is lower in saturated fat and higher in protein than regular sour cream and mayonnaise, but it has a similar taste and texture when incorporated into dishes. This makes it easy for you to enjoy healthier versions of your favorite dishes.

Use white meats, such as chicken or turkey, instead of beef and pork. Make your favorite chili with ground chicken or turkey instead of ground beef. Put a spin on your game day menu and make a less traditional white chili with chicken. Instead of meatballs made with ground beef, use ground chicken or turkey and incorporate lots of herbs and spices to provide flavor. You can even incorporate seafood into your menu with fish or shrimp tacos. Just make sure to grill, bake or broil the seafood instead of frying it.

Buffalo-flavored anything is always a hit at any game day party. Instead of buffalo dips containing high amounts of saturated fat from cheese or cream cheese, serve buffalo hummus dip instead. Hummus, which is made with garbanzo beans (commonly called “chickpeas”), is low in saturated fat and contains fiber, protein and many vitamins and minerals.

To make buffalo hummus, add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of hot sauce (based on how spicy you want your dip) to a basic hummus recipe. Pair the dip with celery or baked pita chips for a delicious, healthy game day snack.

Salty and sweet snacks make for a popular flavor combination. Try a snack mix with pretzels, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries or other fruit, and maybe a few dark chocolate chips for a delicious snack containing healthy fats and protein. Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? Add popcorn for a great crunch with lots of fiber and few calories.

Follow food safety recommendations to ensure everyone leaves your party happy and healthy.

It is common to leave food on the counter for extended periods of time so that people can snack during the game. To ensure that food remains at safe temperatures, keep cold-perishable foods in the refrigerator until right before the party. Do not leave them at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep hot-perishable foods warm at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher on the stove or in a slow cooker. If you’re tailgating away from home, keep cold-perishable foods in a cooler with ice.

These tips may mean a little extra planning, but they’ll keep you and your guests safe and healthy so that you can enjoy many more game days.

Hannah Wilson is a University of Georgia doctoral student and a dietetic intern working with UGA Family and Consumer Sciences Assistant Professor Ali Berg.

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