We’re well into football season and whether your team is running plays with tiny players, the Friday night lights crew, or the NFL, serving up good things to eat is a big part of the game. Game day snacks are often not the best option for the wellness lifestyle. Now, I’m not trying to preempt your soccer party, my goal is to share options that are just as tempting, but will score you big if you’re playing to improve your health. With planning ahead and a little creativity, you can turn your backdoor into a variety of good-for-you options.

The successful follower makes planning a priority. He should have on hand the essentials for safe food handling, handwashing or sanitizing, and equipment to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Also pack two sets of utensils to ensure you have separate utensils for handling cooked and raw foods. If you’re lighting the grill, be sure to bring a metal bucket or heat-resistant container to put out the coals safely. Include trash bags and antibacterial wipes for cleanup. You should also bring a first aid kit; you can buy one or put together one that contains band-aids, Neosporin and alcohol wipes, sterile gauze, and insect repellant. This is a general list; You may also want to add items that are your personal must-haves for game day.

Now, when planning the meal, take a look at your team colors – do team colors lend themselves to playing games on what to add to the menu? For example:

  • Black, White, and Red Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Blackened Chicken Strips, Fresh Tomato Salsa, and Baked White Tortilla Chips
  • Miami Dolphins, Green, White Orange: Kale Slaw, Carrot Curls, Chopped Jicama, and Ranch Dressing
  • Green Bay Green & Gold Packers: Low-Fat Spinach Dip, Zucchini & Summer Squash Slices & Pita Triangles
  • San Francisco 49ers Red & Gold: Turkey Chili, Shredded Cheddar, and Plain Greek Yogurt

If it’s a challenge to match team colors to menu items, some of the regional foods can add up to a winning play.

  • Buffalo Bills – Baked Chicken Wings, Low-Fat Blue Cheese Dressing, and Celery Sticks
  • Chicago Bears – Turkey Sausages on Whole Wheat Buns with Toppings i.e. Chopped Onions, Relish, Mustard
  • New Orleans Saints: Red Beans, Brown Rice, and Roasted Garlic Flavored Pita Triangles
  • Dallas Cowboys: Lean Brisket Tacos with Fresh Salsa

Drinks are also important. You want to make sure your group gets plenty of fluids and doesn’t get dehydrated. Wellness libations include mocktails, non-alcoholic beer, low-sugar fruit-based drinks, lemon or lemonade, vegetable juice, soda, carbonated water, fruit water, or zero vitamin water. Any of these can be paired with healthy fan foods to round out the tailgate menu.

The game is the main event. Plan the day to arrive and prepare the food about two hours before the start. You don’t want to rush through the pregame rituals, camaraderie, and bravado that is part of the backdoor experience. Once everyone in the team car has eaten, make sure your area is clean and you’ve packed some snacks and drinks that are easy to reach for the post-game celebration.

Bring: As you play the game for good health, add healthy food options to your menu when you entertain.

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