6 ways to survive tailgating season without gaining weight

Grilled filet mignon and vegetable kabobsWhile our Mountaineers will be duking it out on the gridiron this fall, spectators and tailgaters will be engaged in a different sort of battle in parking lots, bars and homes across the country.

According to a Harris Interactive survey, 1 in 4 football fans will have gained an average of 10 pounds by the end of the season, and about 1 in 6 will have packed on a whopping 20 pounds.

What’s more, another study published in Psychological Science, found that following the game, fans of the losing team gorged on saturated fats and sugars, while those of the winning team chose healthier foods. (Now I know why I gained so much weight last fall.)

To help guide us to a victory in our battle of the bulge, I consulted with my personal trainer, Dan Ipoletta, to create a game plan. His advice is doable and practical, unlike other articles I’ve seen. (I mean, c’mon, who’s only going to drink 1 or 2 light beers at a tailgate?)

So, here’s the game plan in 6 steps:

Edamame1. Plan ahead. “It’s going to be all about your preparation as far as what food you bring with you,” said Dan. “Everything you look at should be either low carb or low fat. That way you’re at least dodging the big bulk of calories at one point in time.”

This is key because as you drink alcoholic beverages, your willpower diminishes. So if you don’t have fatty snacks and foods on hand, you won’t be able to pig out on them. Dan also suggests limiting the empty calories you consume, switching to vodka and water with lemon after a couple high-caloric beers. (Of course, my tailgate will also include my Mountaineer Margaritas.)

Recommendations for healthy snack options include different nuts, especially peanuts in the shell since you have to work at taking them out of the shell. The same goes for edamame in the pod. Just add sea salt and you have a delicious, healthy snack. A cup of edamame meets 1/3 of your daily fiber and protein needs.

For your main dish, buy extra lean meat to grill. With the right seasonings, your fellow tailgaters will never know. Buffalo (or bison) is the leanest, most nutritious meat available, but it’s fairly pricey. It’s good for a smaller tailgate crowd.

Also, try grilling filet mignon, which is a low-fat cut, and vegetables for savory kabobs. Dave cooks wild rice to go with our kabobs. This fan favorite will stick to your ribs and help soak up some of that alcohol.

2. Don’t go hungry. Eat a healthy breakfast that will stick with you, such as a double serving of oatmeal topped with fruit. “If you go into those situations hungry – which I’ve done a million times – there’s no turning back,” Dan said.

The Simply So Sweet Chili tortilla chips from Way Better Snacks are wonderfully spicy and packed with sprouted grains and seeds.

The Simply So Sweet Chili tortilla chips from Way Better Snacks are wonderfully spicy and packed with sprouted grains and seeds.

3. Make small changes. Swap chips and dip for healthier tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa. For me, I love Way Better Snacks. Also, make sure you have lots of fruit and veggies on hand.

And try substituting fatty veggie dip with hummus or guacamole. In fact, a Mediterranean hummus tray with cucumbers and olives is loaded with fiber and low in fat. Another yummy pairing is Jif natural peanut butter and celery sticks.

4. Pace yourself. Drink a bottle of water between every alcoholic beverage. Sure, you’ll have to go to the bathroom more, but that means you’ll also get some extra exercise.

Jill get her groove on at tailgate

Jill gets her groove on at WVU vs. Texas Tech tailgate 2013

5. Don’t just sit there. Get up and walk around. Check out other people’s tailgates. Toss a football around. Play cornhole. Anything that gets you moving. (If you join us at our tailgate in the gold lot, you’ll also have a nice little hike to the stadium.)

6. Work out the day before and the day after. Since I lift weights on Thursday, Dan suggested I stick with my empty-stomach cardio on Friday mornings and then eat healthy all day. (The latter will be a challenge.) Drinking a cup of black coffee before your cardio workout is also good because it gives you a healthy caffeine boost.

The bottom line: Consider game day your cheat day. While you still want to make healthy choices, find that happy medium where you’re not restricting yourself so much that if you crack, you’ll hit that point of no return.

Do you have any tips to help defeat the battle of the bulge this fall?


  1. jill.skeen@hilton.com'Jill says

    Looking forward to putting this to practice october 18 tailgate!! Especially the mountaineer margarita :). Love your tips Andy!!

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