Tailgate Food That Will Blow Your Mind — Not Your Daily Calorie Count

bbq ribs
Tailgate food can be healthy and irresistible. Don’t believe us? Check out these mouthwatering tailgate recipes. (Image: stocksy/Pietro Karras)

Beer, wings, chili — what’s not to like about football season? Tailgate foods are undoubtedly delicious, but they can also be loaded with empty calories, sodium, unhealthy fats and processed ingredients. But we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

From simple game-day recipes like bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeno poppers and spicy vegan “wings” to low-calorie craft beers that won’t give you a dreaded beer belly, we’ve got your back when it comes to a healthier tailgate.

Healthy Takes on Classic Tailgate Snacks

guacamole
Never tailgate without a full bowl of heart-healthy guac. (Image: Getty Images/LarisaBlinova)

What’s a football party or tailgate without a table full of irresistible snacks? Instead of onion dip and molten nacho cheese, tempt your guests with protein-packed green pea guacamole and a roasted beet hummus that’s rich in both B vitamins and antioxidants.

At the grocery store, walk right past those processed chips that are loaded with fat and sodium (looking at you, Doritos). Head for the fresh veggies, which you can transform into a gorgeous vegetable platter, as well as lower-calorie chip alternatives that are made from superfoods like flax, beets, kale and chia. And don’t underestimate the power of a big bowl healthy, fat-filled nuts.

But don’t stop there: After all, we want your tailgating buds to be wowed. Swap the traditional fake butter- and salt-covered popcorn for these 12 healthier popcorn recipes, from spicy buffalo popcorn to sea salt-and-vinegar popcorn. And definitely make a batch of these spicy cauliflower “wings,” featuring crisp cauliflower florets doused in a spicy honey-lime sauce.

Keto-Friendly Tailgate Recipes

jalapeno poppers
Our recipe for jalapeno poppers is both keto and delicious. (Image: LIVESTRONG.com)

When it comes to keto-friendly tailgate recipes, the possibilities are endless. We’re talking cheesy low-carb nachos made with mini sweet bell peppers (or sweet potatoes) instead of chips. If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, how about these keto-approved jalapeno poppers filled with cream cheese and wrapped in crispy bacon? Or maybe you prefer this slow cooker beef shank and black bean chili that’s only 280 calories per serving.

No matter what you choose to dish up at your tailgate, know that there are endless high-protein and low-carb options out there to satisfy you and your guests — including smoky baby back and spare ribs smothered in low-sugar barbecue sauce, juicy homemade burgers (just nix the bun) and a variety of healthy tacos under 300 calories.

Oarsman Ale from Bell’s Brewery
It isn’t tailgating without a cold, refreshing beer. (Image: LIVESTRONG.com/Chloe Millar)

Low-Cal Beverage Options

It isn’t tailgating if you don’t have a cold one in your hand, but that beverage doesn’t have to be a sugary margarita or a high-calorie soda. Instead, opt for one of these 10 insanely good craft beers under 150 calories, including brews from Bell’s Brewery and Dogfish Head. Another great low-calorie option is fruit wine slush, which combines one glass of red, white or rose with one cup of seasonal frozen fruit like berries, watermelon, peaches or plums.

Because alcohol is typically high in calories, try reaching for a few nonalcoholic beverages throughout the day to break it up. We suggest fruit-flavored sparkling water like La Croix, iced green tea (hello, antioxidants), iced coffee (especially if you need a pick-me-up) and water infused with fresh citrus slices and in-season fruit.

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