Fall is a wonderful time for football or soccer tailgates, bonfires, harvest parties, and those last family picnics. The problem with these wonderful gatherings is they are often accompanied with high fat, sodium, sugar, and calorie – and low nutrient dense foods. With a little planning you can still have fun at your next gathering, but serve more nutritious choices.
Start your event by keeping hot foods hot (above 140 degrees) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees). You may need coolers of ice, grills, warmers, or to rethink your menu if it is difficult to have these items. Be sure to store foods in coolers or a refrigerator once everyone stops eating, or within a maximum of two hours. If you are using a slow cooker for cooking, remember that half to two-thirds full = full.
When planning your menu consider these healthier choices:
- Fruit kabobs and fresh vegetables are a great start, but limit the high fat dips.
- Try a hummus of ground chick peas, spinach leaves, and your favorite spices. Garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin, lemon juice, parsley, a little olive oil, or cider vinegar are good flavor choices. Reserve a little of the bean liquid to make blending easier.
- Chili, be it white bean or traditional red, is an easy tailgate foundation. Choose a lower fat meat (ground turkey or chicken), add lots of beans, chopped tomatoes, corn, carrots, and even diced sweet potatoes.
- Skip the chips and go with popcorn.
- Use slider buns or whole wheat wraps as better bread options.
- Skip the soda and serve iced water with fruit slices (by selecting a fruit in your team color you can even tie together a theme – think Buckeyes red berries or Bengals orange slices).
- If you feel like you need dessert, try an oatmeal cookie or black bean brownies.
Remember that the focus of any fall party or tailgate is the fellowship with friends and family, or cheering your favorite team – not really the food.