Follow these strategies to resist the wings and chips at tailgates this season.
By Grace Derocha
It’s time to grab the grill and a group of friends to prepare for tailgating season! While many people enjoy getting together to support their favorite sports teams, the dishes typically served at these parties aren’t always the healthiest. The buffet-style options and sugary snacks can contain hundreds of empty calories, which result in blood pressure spikes, lethargy and binge eating. Keep in mind these six tips to stay on track at the next tailgate:
1. Eat healthy early. It’s important to start the day with a good breakfast to jump-start the metabolic system, so the body starts burning calories instead of conserving them. The first meal of the day should be high in fiber and include good nutrition with a variety of food groups for sustained energy and to help keep the body satisfied. Steer clear of foods with added sugars, which can result in an energy crash and lead to weight gain over time.
2. Stay hydrated. Studies by the American Chemical Society show drinking two cups of water before eating can curb false hunger pangs and prevent overeating. Often, people mistake thirst for hunger and eat more when the body is in need of fluids. Drinking water throughout the day is crucial to preventing dehydration, especially if a tailgating event is taking place outside in warmer weather. It’s recommended that individuals drink at least half their weight in ounces of water per day.
3. Bring snacks. Packing a healthy snack such as nuts and/or dried fruits can help fight the temptation to consume other unhealthy options. These types of foods are easy to transport and provide the body with more nutrients and energy than the fried, greasy alternatives generally found at tailgates.
4. Seek out produce. Try looking for fruits and vegetables at the party or be the one who brings them to share. Most social functions offer a vegetable tray or fruit platter for snacking. A good rule to follow when eating at parties is to cover at least half the plate with fruits and vegetables to fill up on healthy options first. This method decreases the likelihood of overindulging in less healthy foods. It’s also a good idea to use smaller plates and cups to control portion size.
5. Stay active. A good way to combat the consumption of extra calories is to keep moving. Consider tossing a ball around with friends, or turn up some music and have a dance party. Even walking around and socializing can burn calories. The important thing is to avoid sitting too much and keep the body active. Standing can burn up to 0.7 calories per minute, according to one study by researchers at the University of Chester in the UK. That may not sound like a lot, but it can add up to 50 calories an hour.
6. Avoid unintentional grazing. Consider stepping away from the food table or area to avoid unnecessary eating. Cornell Food and Brand Lab researchers found individuals who are within eyesight of food are 71 percent more likely to eat the food, even when not hungry. Staying close to the food table can increase the likelihood of continuous snacking and ultimately lead to binge eating. Leave the area after eating and steer clear of the vicinity unless necessary.
Being healthy doesn’t have to mean skipping the party. Following these tips will help prevent overindulgence and make healthy choices easier, while still allowing for a good time. Now, grab the foam fingers and jerseys and start cheering!
Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.