Game Day Game Plan: Simple Ideas for a Healthier Tailgate

Autumn is my favorite season. Always has been, always will be. I love the aroma of wood smoke drifting through the air in the evening, the sound of leaves crunching under my feet during morning walks, and all the lovely reds, golds, and fading greens of the leaves before they drop from their branches. And the Purple. So. Much. Purple. 

Purple? Yes, Purple. See, I’m a native Baltimorean, our NFL team is the Ravens, and we bleed Purple in my family. Even now that I’ve relocated to coastal NC, or Down East as they say here, I still watch my Ravens and I still rock my purple paraphernalia on Purple Fridays. Luckily, ECU’s colors are Purple and Gold, so I don’t get too many weird looks. You know how southerners are about College Football—it’s the second biggest religion down here. 

Like any fan worth her (pink Himalayan) salt, I also love all the superstitions and traditions that go along with football season. If we’re winning, I don’t wash my jersey until we lose. I have special things I ONLY wear on game days, and I only drink my red wine out of my hand-painted Ravens logo wine glass during the games. 

But football isn’t just about the game, and the antics of the spectators. It’s also about friends, family, and food. So what do you do if you’re trying eat clean, or follow a specific dietary protocol? What if you’re the hostess/host? How do you accommodate folks who don’t eat grains, or dairy or HFCS? 

I’ll start by saying that if you are the tailgate/game watching host, it’s completely okay to ask your guests to bring a dish to contribute. The ones (like me) who have specific dietary restrictions will be thrilled to be asked! I always bring something to parties—that way, I know I’ll be able to eat at least ONE thing there. And we’re usually excited to show off our newest culinary creations; it’s always fun to prove to doubters just how delicious healthy foods can be. 

To give you a head-start on menu ideas I’ve put together a quick list of fun tailgate friendly foods that fit in with a healthy approach to eating. Most of these are Paleo/Primal friendly, since that’s my particular flavor of healthy eating, but there’s something for everyone here., even your Vegan sister-in-law. 

  • mini burgers/sliders with mushrooms for buns
  • slow cooker pulled pork
  • raw veggies, homemade balsamic vinaigrette and/or Tzatziki
  • baked wings with bbq dipping sauce (sauce recipe here)
  • buffalo cauliflower
  • deviled eggs (use homemade mayo, recipe here)
  • grilled shrimp and pineapple kebabs  
  • chorizo stuffed sweet mini peppers
  • dark chocolate covered berry and nut clusters
  • baked apples, filled with almond butter, coconut, cinnamon, and a drizzle of maple syrup

There you go—10 super easy, quick ideas for healthy options on your tailgate table….but get creative and have fun with your food. And like I said, don’t be shy about asking your guests to contribute—or if YOU are the guest go ahead and OFFER to bring something!

Now if my team can get their Offense organized and stop losing key players to injuries, I just might enjoy this season even more! 

What’s your favorite tailgate/game night food? Do you have weird (it’s only weird if it doesn’t work!) rituals for game days? Let me know in the comments—this could get fun!  And don’t forget to follow me on Periscope. I’m broadcasting at least twice a week over there, and it’s always something different.