(BPT) – Football season is quickly approaching, which means it will soon be time for tailgating or watching the big game on TV. For many of us, this time of year is tough on our diet and exercise plans, but it doesn’t have to be, according to Bryan Snyder, registered dietitian and director of team nutrition for the Denver Broncos.
Snyder, who is responsible for keeping the year-round nutrition strategies for the team’s players on track, also knows the pitfalls for fans. “Nutrition goals can fall by the wayside when leisure time includes snacking or party fare,” Snyder says. “We tend to make poor choices when it comes to snacking, earning it a bad rap. But in fact, by picking healthy and tasty options, anyone can come out a winner on game day.”
Snyder recommends these tips for better snacking in his healthy eating playbook for football season and throughout the year.
1. Plan ahead.
Cut and slice your fruits and vegetables the day before you plan on eating them. That way when you find yourself hungry and ready for a snack, you will already have the hard part finished. Grab your pre-cut veggies and dip them in low-fat ranch dressing or hummus to help get you through the day. This is a great way to add some healthy vegetables to your tailgate menu. Perhaps you could make a strawberry banana smoothie with Greek yogurt the night before and leave the pitcher in the refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go snack as you run out the door.
2. Snack on foods that are healthy and will fill you up.
How many times do we eat a snack and 10 minutes later we’re hungry? The perfect snack strikes a great balance of healthy carbohydrates along with protein, fiber and antioxidants. One of the healthiest and best snacks is pistachios. With 1 ounce of pistachios, you get 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, healthy fats and 6 percent of your daily value of iron. Plus, pistachios contain antioxidants, which help our immune systems stay strong and fight off diseases. One serving of pistachios contains only 160 calories.
3. Aim for whole grains.
The last thing you probably think about as you get ready for the big game is setting out snacks that contain whole grains. However, eating whole grains may reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases like heart diseases, and incorporating whole grains isn’t as hard as it seems. One option you could have available is whole grain crackers and cheese. Try whole grain Wheat Thins instead of potato chips as a healthy substitution.
4. Stay hydrated with water.
Our bodies have a difficult time distinguishing between being hungry or thirsty. Often, we feel like we are hungry when in reality we simply may be thirsty and/or dehydrated. One study found that people who drink water 20-30 minutes before starting their meals eat about 75 fewer calories per meal. Considering we may be snacking for three hours while watching the game, these calories will add up.
5. Replace fatty protein with lean proteins.
Hamburger sliders are a staple of many tailgating menus across the country, but sometimes we just want a good burger. While eating a fatty hamburger in moderation isn’t the worst thing in the world, there are certainly some leaner options to choose. Instead of going to the grocery store and picking up the first piece of beef available to grill for the game, look at either a leaner beef option or a different meat altogether. For example, a better option for protein would be a 97 percent lean ground beef to make sliders or hamburgers. Another option would be to simply choose ground turkey instead of ground beef to make patties to throw on the grill.
6. Don’t be afraid of veggies.
Despite what your buddies may think, it is not against the law to eat vegetables at a tailgate party. More than likely, there will be some grilling before the big game. Don’t be afraid to throw some zucchini, mushrooms or even asparagus on the grill to complement the other items you are cooking. You can also chop up some veggies and serve with low-fat ranch dressing or hummus.
7. Have a backup plan
You might be heading to the game on Saturday or Sunday, and you plan on meeting up with some friends before the game to tailgate. In this case, you may have zero healthy choices to pick from while you are snacking and eating before the game. It is always good to have a backup plan. Healthy bars, nuts or a piece of whole fruit are easy and portable so you have a go-to backup plan. Trail mix and pistachios are easy to throw in your bag for the game or to have around your house for a snack. Plan ahead and bring some small snacks with you, so you don’t indulge in hours of unhealthy snacking, like my Pistachio and Date Energy Bites (recipe below). Great for tailgating, this portable and delicious snack is healthy and gives a great variety of protein and antioxidants to not only fill you up, but give you an immune system boost as well.
Pistachio and Date Energy Bites
1 cup dried cherries
8 ounces dates
1/2 cup local honey
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup pistachios (shelled)
Pinch of Kosher salt
3/4 cup pistachios (Finely ground)
Combine dates, honey, chia seeds, flax meal and salt in food processor and mix. Add small amount of honey if it’s too thick.
Remove and add to mixing bowl. Incorporate pistachios, cherries, oats and dark chocolate chips, and mix until combined.
Use desired portion scoop or portion by hand. Roll bites in finely ground pistachios, coating the whole bite. Store in the refrigerator.