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vegetable on skewers on a grill, hambuger on a plate on a picnic table

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Football season is in full swing. Thousands of fans flock to stadiums every Saturday to cheer on their favorite college teams and spend the day tailgating.

Traditionally, tailgating means high calorie foods, often fried and loaded with cheese. Having fun on game day also makes it easy to munch on party snacks, even when you’re past the point of being full.

Many people can enjoy tailgating and still maintain a healthy lifestyle. Katie Funderburk, an Alabama Extension specialist, had some great advice.

Eat Better: Have a Tailgate Game Plan

Here are a few steps to take to enjoy tailgate food healthfully. First, have a winning game plan before tailgating begins. Fill up on high fiber foods before kickoff, such as celery or carrot sticks, broccoli and dip or cherry tomatoes.

“Veggies and dip, like hummus or your favorite dressing, make a tasty and crunchy snack that can hold you over until it’s time to enjoy a meal. Then you can savor small portions of your favorite tailgate classics without overdoing it,” said Funderburk, also a registered dietitian with SNAP-Ed at Auburn University.

If you are bringing a dish to a tailgate, consider bringing a colorful fruit or veggie tray. Salsa and guacamole are also crowd pleasers. A large, ice cold pitcher of water with sliced fruit and herbs, like berries or watermelon with mint or basil, is a fresh way to stay hydrated all day long instead of sipping sugary drinks.

If you are watching the game at home, it can be easy to keep snacking all day long. Limit mindless snacking during game time by putting away some of the food once the game starts. Out of sight, out of mind. In addition, food safety rules discourage leaving perishable foods out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, so it’s a win-win. Check out this article from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more game day food safety tips.

Move More: Get in on the Action

Why should the players be the only ones moving on game day? Enjoy the changing fall weather by being active with friends and family outdoors. Throw a frisbee, toss a football, play a game of kickball or have a hula hoop contest. Too cold or rainy? Play a game of musical chairs to your favorite team’s fight song. Anything that gets people moving more and having fun is fair game.

Make a Change

Follow these simple tips during football season to make healthy tailgating easy and fun. Plan ahead, stay hydrated with plenty of water, and be active while rooting for your favorite team. Take this Spinach Dip recipe from the Live Well Alabama kitchen to your next tailgate.

Spinach Dip


1 package frozen spinach, thawed, 10 ounces

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 package of vegetable dip mix, 1 ounce

1 teaspoon dill

Vegetables for dipping (carrots, celery)


Squeeze thawed spinach with paper towels to remove extra water. Mix together all ingredients. Cover and chill for 20 minutes. Serve with cut-up vegetables.

Download the printable Spinach Dip recipe here.

More Information

Live Well Alabama is a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) initiative developed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University. This initiative reaches residents across the state with research-based education.

Live Well Alabama has additional recipes that can be found on the Alabama Extension website.

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