Healthy Tailgate

Story by Melinda Caldwell, TSET Healthy Living Program Coordinator

Football season in Cowboy Country is in full swing, which means individuals from around the state and country will be visiting Stillwater for the unique game day atmosphere OSU provides. Tailgating provides a great experience, bringing many fans and friends together to cheer on their favorite team or alumni. However, while this experience may be a great way to catch up with old friends, or planned as a fun family outing, it can potentially take a toll on your health and waistline.  An average tailgating meal including a cheeseburger, three handfuls of potato chips, three chocolate chip cookies, baked beans and two beers adds up to a whopping 1,603 calories. For comparison, the average male is recommended to consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day and the average female is recommended 1,600 to 2,400 calories based on age and activity level (

If all that cheering for your favorite team works up an appetite, try to make healthy choices by choosing a smaller plate and filling it with healthy fruits and vegetable before going back for heartier entrees. If you are hosting, try a healthy OSU themed fruit and veggie tray. For Orange include orange slices, cantaloupe, mangoes, apricots, carrots and sweet potatoes. For Black add in some blackberries, purple grapes, black olives and black beans. White can be added to the tray by incorporating some honeydew melon, pears, low-fat yogurt dip, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, or low-fat veggie dip to the mix. For additional healthy tailgating tips, see OSU Department of Wellness’s recommendations below:

  • Start with fresh ingredients. Cut up a platter of fresh fruit and veggies to make a colorful and low-calorie snack to munch on before half-time.
  • Fresh black bean or tomato-based salsas are delicious and go well with pita chips, baked chips, or chips made with liquid oils (check ingredient list on the food label). A half cup of queso cheese dip is 180 calories and 10 grams of fat—-more than a scoop of ice cream and that’s not including the chips. Switch to salsa and you only get 35 calories and 0 grams of fat.
  • Keep the water cool and plentiful. The calories in alcohol add up quickly and dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, and decreased energy. Remember you want to enjoy the game and not suffer from a hangover.
  • For an alternative to hot dogs and hamburgers, try a grilled pork tenderloin or grilled chicken wrap. Marinate your chicken a few hours before grilling. Fill a wrap with chicken, lettuce or spinach leaves, tomatoes, light dressing, and a bit of shredded cheese.
  • Fire up the grill and try barbecuing chicken breasts and roasted sweet corn or vegetable kebabs.
  • Air-popped popcorn or the no trans-fat light variety is a good substitute for nuts and cheese crackers. Three cups of popcorn provide only 80 calories versus 240 for a handful of nuts.
  • On cool days, make chili with lean meat or lean ground turkey with beans or make great tasting cowboy chili with black beans and sweet potatoes.
  • It’s easy to overeat when watching a game. Keep the focus on the sport and not your stomach.