Fall is here...even though it’s currently 91 degrees in Chicago… it is officially football season! Some people, enjoy camping or day trips to go apple picking but for many, it means one thing:football.
And whether your team wins or loses, the den parties with your buddies, sports bars with their drink specials, and parking lot tailgates before games are there to support you.
Unfortunately,what starts out as a cheat-day indulgence quickly becomes a slippery slope.Don’t let ‘Sunday Funday’ derail you completely and trickle into your week...if you know that you’re going to spend Sundays in front of the TV or attending parties, strategize your meal prep and be smart about your choices so you don’t wind up completely off the bandwagon week over week. Between the NFL and college seasons, you’re looking at five months of football with up to six days per week of games.
But get this—you CAN party hard without totally derailing. Behold, our guide to surviving the football season, from tips to mitigate the damage of crappy food and alcohol to recipes that help you eat cleaner and leaner (without sacrificing flavor and fun).
The Game Plan
#1 Train Beforehand
If you know you are going to be out for the game and plan to eat big or drink hard during the game, squeeze in a workout earlier that day. Get up and burn some calories and push yourself a bit harder and get your metabolism going hard. At the very least, it will help offset the calories you take in with the food and booze—at least to some slight degree. But, it can also help you make better choices later if you don’t want to ruin all your hard work (because ABs are made in the kitchen not in the gym), you will likely make better choices.
#2 Get a solid breakfast in with a good amount of protein
Protein promotes satiety, so chugging a shake before a big meal will help prevent you from gorging on fatty foods and sugary desserts. But here’s the thing: the shake needs to be nutrient dense with at least 30g of protein. After your workout, whip up a good post workout shake with protein, unsweetened almond milk (or any other non dairy milk you like), greens and some low glycemic fruit.
#3 Choose Lower-Calorie Booze and Food
We get it; you don’t go to a football game to sip herbal tea or warm milk. You want to have a drink and live a little. But if you’re smart about the kind of booze you swill, you can get a buzz without exploding your waistline.
Favor clear drinks such as vodka, gin, and rum combined with a calorie-free mixer like club soda. They don’t pack the sugar of beer or mixed drinks. “The body preferentially metabolizes alcohol because it’s essentially a poison,” says Mohr. “While it does that, other stuff will likely get stored.”
Remember, alcohol shuts down your body’s ability to burn fat until it’s out of your system. You can’t do anything about that—but you can avoid making the problem worse by pouring more empty calories down your throat in the meantime.
Also, if you’re going to drink a ton, don’t binge on fattening foods at the same time, or at least aim for leaner choices. Aim for lower calorie choices such as veggies (not doused in fatty dips), or smart pop popcorn versus loaded nachos. The more fat you eat, the more calories you’ll consume, and that equals more calories that are stored as fat while your body burns the alcohol you drank.
#4 Alternate Alcoholic Drinks with Water
This method will slow down your drinking and help to keep you hydrated, and help you avoid a hangover. No one enjoys paying for their fun the day after.
5 Tailgate Recipes
Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato Skins
- 1.5 Chicken Breast, cooked and shredded
- Mix with your favorite hot sauce – I used Franks Red Hot with Walden Farms Blue Cheese Dressing (0 cal, dairy free)
- 3 Sweet potato, halved (if thick, slice into 3rds)
- 1 tablespoon Avocado Oil
- Pinch Himalayan Sea Salt
- 4 slices Bacon, diced
- ½ Red Onion, chopped
- 1 Jalapeno, diced
- 1 Tomato, diced
- ½ cup Coconut Milk (full fat)
- 2 teaspoons Lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- optional: ½-1 Jalapeno
- Cook and shred chicken – I used my pressure cooker, it cooked 3 chicken breast in 20 minutes then I just shred it. Then, add your favorite buffalo sauce. See above for recommendation.
- Warm up the oven to 400° F.
- Slice the sweet potatoes long ways and place in a pan lined with parchment paper, top with avocado oil and salt.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the center of the sweet potato gives a little.
- While the potatoes are baking, prepare the toppings. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, place on paper towels to soak up excess fat, then chop when cool.
- Dice tomatoes, onion, jalapeno.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow to cool down a bit. Then, scoop out the middle with a spoon – leave ¼ inch flesh on the skin or more if you like.
- Increase the oven temperature to 450° F. Spoon the chicken breast into the skins, and top with onion, jalapeno, tomatoes and bacon. Put the pan back in the oven and bake the skins 10 minutes or until crisp to your liking.
- Next, prepare the sauce.
- In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine coconut milk, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt. Mix on high until smooth.
- Remove potato skins and drizzle a generous amount of cilantro sauce on top and enjoy!
Mandarin Turkey Meatballs
- 1.50 lb(s), Lean Ground Turkey
- 1 large, Egg
- 1/3 cup Gluten Free Panko Bread Crumbs
- 1 tbsp Ginger
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1.5 tbsp(s), Soy Sauce Flavoring
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup Sugar Free Orange Marmalade
- 1 can No Sugar Added Mandarin Oranges
- Sriracha, optional
- Heat oven to 500 degrees F.
- Spray mini muffin pan with olive oil spray.
- Combine all ingredients into a medium bowl except the orange marmalade, oranges and Sriracha. Mix meat and seasonings well (I recommend using your hands) and then form meatballs and place in the mini muffin pan.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes or until meatballs reach 160F.
- Remove meatballs and place into bowl, add in the orange marmalade and stir until meatballs are coated.
Serve each meatball with 1 mandarin orange on top and a dollop of Sriracha (optional).
Crispy Chicken Wings
- 1 pound chicken wings
- 1+1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Franks Red Hot Sauce
- Walden Farms Ranch or Blue Cheese
- Garlic powder and onion powder (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Wash and pat dry each chicken wing.
- Dust evenly with ½ teaspoon of the sea salt plus the ground pepper. Bake at 400 for approximately one hour, or until golden brown and the skin is hardened when you touch it.
- When the chicken comes out of the oven, let them rest for 5 minutes then place in a large bowl and pour the hot sauce over.
- Stir and combine until each wing is evenly coated. Add garlic powder or onion powder if you like.
- Serve alongside celery sticks and Walden Farms Ranch or Blue Cheese.
Low-Carb Pesto & Turkey Cucumber Roll-Ups
- 3 medium cucumbers (each will yield about 6 slices)
- ¼ cup store-bought basil pesto
- 6 slices GO Veggie Lactose & Soy Free Mozzarella Slices, cut into ½ inch strips
- 6 oz deli smoked turkey breast, shredded
- 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced into matchsticks
- 1/2 cup spinach, shredded
- salt and pepper, for seasoning
- Slice the cucumbers lengthwise on a mandoline at about a 2mm setting. If you don’t have a mandoline, you can always use a vegetable peeler. Place the cucumber slices on parchment paper and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Spread about 1 teaspoon of pesto on each cucumber, then evenly distribute cheese, turkey, bell pepper and spinach on each. Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Roll up and place seam down. If you want an even nicer presentation, you can stick a toothpick in the middle for easy appetizers! Serve with extra pesto or sauce of choice. Makes about 18 rolls.
Can be make a day ahead. Just store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Feel free to sub in different veggies or meat with your favorites!
Slow-Cooker Jalapeno 4-Meat & Sweet Potato Chili
With four types of meat (beef, chicken, turkey, and bison), two types of beans (kidney and black), and all types of flavor, this grain-free, sweet potato chili is filling, healthy and has just enough jalepeno to spice up your life (in all the best ways).
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 lb. lean (90/10) ground beef, grass-fed if possible
- 2 chicken breasts, chopped into 2” cubes
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 small sweet potatoes, cleaned & diced
- 2 jalapenos, sliced thin
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 3 tsp. Pink himalayan salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- Green onions, thinly sliced
- Avocado (squeeze lemon or lime on top to prevent oxidizing, or browning, when serving)
Heat 1 tbsp. coconut oil in a large pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, ground beef, 1 tsp. Himalayan salt, garlic powder, black pepper. Cook and break up the beef as you stir, until the beef is no longer pink. Add 1 tbsp. chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin. Transfer beef to the bottom of the slow cooker.
Using the same pan, add 1 tbsp. coconut oil and the chicken breast cubes. Sear the chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Add chicken on top of beef in slow cooker.
Finally, add the diced sweet potato, black beans, kidneys beans, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, cayenne pepper, and remaining Himalayan salt & chili powder.
Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-6 hours, until the potatoes are tender. Serve warm with desired toppings.
Recipe inspired from Krysta Steen
Bring a little Southern Hospitality to your next tailgate with this classic, colorful dish. It’s quite the multi-purpose player: dip, side salad, burger topper—you name it, this is a great go-to for the next BIG game.Bonus: it’s healthy AND so easy to throw together last minute.
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tbsp. Stevia
- ⅓ cup white wine or champagne vinegar
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. pink himalayan salt
- 2 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 15 oz. can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green or orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, stevia, vinegar, chili powder and Himalayan salt.
Add remaining ingredients, except the cilantro. Stir to combine.