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A skinny girl’s tailgate

The air is crisp, the leaves are beginning to fall and thousands of drunk fans are screaming and dancing in the parking lot. Ready or not, it’s football season! You can’t have football season without tailgating, right? Tailgating is the time you gather with your friends, grilling hotdogs and chugging Miller Lites as you get prepped for the big game. As fun as tailgating is, it can quickly put the pounds on if you aren’t careful.

Woman at tailgate

There’s nothing better on a chilly, fall tailgate Saturday than a juicy hamburger, a handful of greasy french fries and a cold beer. However, these nostalgic favorites are a dieter’s worst nightmare because they are high in fat, calories, cholesterol and unnecessary carbs. Instead of going hungry or over-indulging on greasy tailgating staples, try a few of these lightening tips so you can still enjoy the game without sacrificing the svelte figure you worked so hard on this summer.

1Swap beef for turkey

Forgo the fatty beef during your tailgate and switch to low-fat turkey! Ground turkey breast is made up of only three percent fat and contains less saturated fat than its beefy rival. In addition, turkey has a very important mineral known as selenium, which helps keep your thyroid and immune system in check. To save even more calories, serve your burgers open faced (only one bun). Serve with grilled onions, mushrooms and your favorite toppings.

Swap beef for turkey

2Be wary of dip

Nothing goes better with a baby carrot or floret of broccoli than a big heaping of buttermilk ranch. However, just two tablespoons of ranch dressing have about 16 grams of fat. YIKES! That’s more than your hamburger and hotdog combined! Save the fat and make your own in a snap! Just mix Greek yogurt, low-fat sour cream, fat-free ranch mix (the powdered kind) and additional spices. You save 13 grams of fat and have better flavor. Heck yes!

Be wary of dip - variety of yogurts

3Limit the beer

One light beer is not going to kill you or even make a dent on the scale. However, who has JUST ONE beer while tailgating? Two or three “light” beers (like Miller Lite) can contain more than 300 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates. Instead of beer, try having a glass of white wine instead. White wines, like Zinfandels, Chardonnays and Rieslings have 90 calories or less per 4.5 ounce serving. If you must have a beer, try having a Beck’s Premier Light, which has 64 calories per bottle or Michelob Ultra, which has 74 calories.

Beck's Premier Light

4Bake, not fry

If you are hosting a tailgate party at your house, put away that fryer! Your favorite tailgate fried foods, like wings and fries, can be baked. Baking chicken wings with a dash of butter and flour will save you more than 150 calories and 10 grams of fat! You can easily bake your fries, too. Instead of potatoes, roll zucchini in panko and bake for a much healthier (and better tasting) crunchy fry!

zucchini in panko and bake

5Forget the butter

We all know there’s nothing like Mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. After a morning of eating salty snacks and burgers, nothing quite cleanses the palate like a cookie. However, what you don’t consider is how much butter (plus love, of course) goes into each little cookie. The standard chocolate chip cookie recipe has two sticks of butter! Make a lighter cookie by omitting the butter and adding in applesauce, greek yogurt, canola oil or pumpkin (for a seasonal cookie). Cookies made with these thickening agents can have as few as 60 calories per cookie.


Swapping out ingredients and switching cooking methods can save you hundreds of calories and that guilt that often follows a binge. Make a few swaps at your next tailgate for a delicious and healthy day of eating!

More tailgating tips

How to grill the perfect burger: Tailgate style
Tailgate party themes
Top 10 tailgate must-haves

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