Tailgating Food & Fun

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Tailgating Food & Fun

Are you ready for some football? If you are like me, you are certainly ready for Game Day FOOD!

For game day, I enjoy foods that are conducive to mindless eating like finger foods and smaller portions of my favorite snacks and drinks. To avoid calorie overload, I simply cook with the right ingredients and serve smaller portions so I can indulge guilt-free.

Here are a few highlights from my repertoire of tailgating treats that will keep you focused on your team, not fumbling your diet!

  • Warm Up with Delicious Finger Foods: Serve full flavor finger foods like almonds, peanuts, pistachios & walnuts, cheese and dried fruits before the game begins. Or choose delicious dips like hummus, guacamole, salsa and bean dip – pair with raw veggies, whole grain crackers and baked corn chips. On cold days, warm up with a bowl of chili prepared with beans, lean turkey or chicken and lots of veggies. Add finely chopped carrots, bell peppers and mushrooms for a nutritious power boost of flavor.
  • Switch Up Your Playbook: Ditch the same old routine of hamburgers and hotdogs. Instead, prepare a fun and delicious “slider bar” where your guests can build their own sliders with lean turkey or chicken burgers. Steak sandwiches using lean cuts of beef are another easy-to-prepare addition to the bar. Don’t forget about your vegetarian friends — offer black bean burgers, too!
  • Heat it Up at Half Time: Before half time starts, preheat your oven to make warm and hearty snacks. Check out my recipe below for Avocado-Turkey & Cheese Panini’s. Cheese adds flavor and a hearty element to foods such as crackers, veggies, whole grain breads and more. For my recipe below, I increased the nutrition factor by using turkey bacon, reduced-fat cheese, heart-healthy avocado and whole grain bread.
  • Offer a Lineup of Flavorful Beverages: For game day, you may be craving drinks with more flavor. Choose zero-calorie beverages like vitaminwater zero which comes in a variety of different flavors to suit everyone’s palate. If you’re a soda lover, choose smaller portions like the Coca-Cola mini can which comes in classic and other flavors like Diet Coke and Coke Zero. However, watch the alcohol! Beer, wine and liquor all contain calories; alcohol also stimulates the appetite, which will keep you eating more.
  • Don’t Pile Up Your Plate: If the tailgating spread feels overwhelming, assess your options before digging in – look to see what is available and choose only those foods you know you will enjoy the most. Remember, no foods are off limits; however moderation is key. Enjoy a small portion of each food you wish to try. When you feel full, step away from the buffet and enjoy a mint or sugar free gum. This will keep your mouth busy to limit picking at the food offerings.

Avocado-Turkey & Cheese Panini’s

Servings: makes 1 sandwich

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes



  • 2 slices turkey bacon
  • 2 slices whole grain bread (hearty texture)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat jack and cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons guacamole, room temperature


  1. Cook the bacon until crispy and set aside on paper towels to drain.
  2. Spray one side of each slice of bread with cooking spray, sprinkle half of the cheese onto the “unsprayed” side of one slice of bread followed by the guacamole, turkey bacon, the remaining cheese and finally top with the remaining slice of bread with the sprayed side up.
  3. Grill over medium heat until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 2-3 minutes per side. Press firmly on sandwich before flipping to alternate side.
  4. Cut into bite-sized pieces and serve immediately!

Tip: You can prepare these in the oven, preheat heat to 450 degrees; place sandwiches on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, flip sandwiches and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Recipe by: Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA