Group of people tailgating and making healthy choices

Fuel for football

With football season is back in full-swing, there are a few tips and tricks we would like to share on eating the best “fuel,” whether you are tailgating, in the stands, or after playing in the big game.


Bring dishes that will meet your dietary needs or goals. I’ve discovered time and time again that I’m not the only one attempting to maintain good nutrition; the fruit salad is almost always gone. Although it’s acceptable to splurge sometimes, there are some healthier options for those weekend warriors.

Kale Caesar Salad

1 bunch kale
Yogurt-based Caesar dressing (I like Bolthouse Farms)
Shaved parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions: Rinse kale well. Holding the stem upside down, strip the leaf from the stem and rip into bite-sized pieces. Discard the stems. Drizzle with Caesar dressing and toss by hand. Add more if necessary. Be rough with the kale – this actually softens it to allow more dressing to soak into the leaves and drastically reduce the earthy taste. The longer it sits the better (at least an hour or two, but 12-24 hours is best); just do not add the croutons until serving. It always surprises me how well received this easy dish is! Kale is not my favorite vegetable, but I love this.

Pros: Prepare ahead, cheap, makes a lot, well-liked

Figs in a Blanket

8 extra large figs (medium ripe)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 tube crescent rolls (8 rolls)
16 walnut or pecan halves
3 ounces smoked Gouda, dill Havarti, sharp cheddar, or other flavorful cheese, cut into 16 squares (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the figs in half and drizzle them with oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut each triangle of dough in half, so there are 16 triangles total. Stack one fig half, one nut, and one cheese slice (if using) on each triangle. Starting at the fat end of the dough triangle, roll into a stack. Place the roll cheese-side-up on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Pros: sweet, salty & savory, portable, prepare ahead, healthy fats & fiber

In the Stands

Not only is it expensive to eat stadium meals, they tend to lack nutritional balance. The good news is that stadiums are slowly but steadily adding greater international options as well as salads, wraps, and even bean burgers to their offerings.

Before arriving, check out the stadium’s website. Most national stadiums have concession lists, and a bit of digging can reveal college stadium options as well.

Do your best to hydrate and eat before entering, but once inside consider these options:

  • Listen to your body: Are you actually hungry, or just purchasing food to do so?
  • Be mindful of the salt & sugar content: Pizza and hot dogs may be an easy option, but their high sodium content contributes to thirst. More thirst means more dollars spent at the stadium. Sodas and alcohol are diuretics, draining more fluid from the body. Both beverages are full of “empty” calories, meaning they contribute to overall caloric intake without offering essential nutrients.
  • Get your peanuts and pretzels: Go for the two traditional items. Peanuts are fun to crack, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and full of healthy fat to keep you satisfied. Soft pretzels are one of the lowest-calorie options and mustard has virtually no calories. Beware of the butter popcorn – the large bucket can contain upwards of 1,500 calories!

For Players After the Big Game

In terms of proper post-exercise refueling, the majority of your food should be healthy carbohydrates with a touch of protein to rebuild muscles. Ideally, you should eat within one hour after exercise. Many teams also have half-time snacks. Trail mix, fruit, homemade honey popcorn balls, peanut/almond butter and jelly sliders or half sandwiches on whole wheat bread are all great options.

There’s something magical about cutting fruit into bite-sized slices – everyone eats more! Plus, it can be done in advance. If time is available, try rainbow fruit skewers. It makes berries (one of the best post-workout foods due to their anti-inflammatory properties) handheld and easy to eat. Don’t forget about kiwi and banana halves, melon balls or pineapple wedges to compliment the traditional orange or apple slices and grapes.

Vegetable soup, bean chili and tomato-based pasta dishes all freeze well and are excellent post game meals. Make a double batch, or if the recipe is already large, set half aside to freeze for those weeknights when practice or games run a bit long.