Tips for a Healthier Big Game Spread

The Big Game is almost here! As sports fans know, no game day is complete without delicious food. Plan the ultimate tailgate or watch party without throwing in the towel on your health goals. Try some of these healthier ideas for guilt-free game day foods that will sustain you through those nail-biting overtimes.

Main dishes

Lean beef burger with rocket, pickles, tomato and onions

Many of us are not willing to give up juicy hamburgers, spicy hot wings, or crispy chicken tenders. You don’t have to sacrifice on game day by avoiding your favorite foods, but you can try a few small changes to create healthier dishes. For example, choose a leaner hamburger meat to make your patties such as 80/20 or 90/10 percent fat. Use a whole wheat bun instead of a white bun for extra fiber. Choose a lower-sodium hot sauce and dip your wings instead of completely coating them. Baking chicken tenders instead of frying decreases the fat content while still keeping them crispy.


Pretzel rolls homemade, cheese dip from cheddar with beer and mustard

Eating healthier is all about building a balanced plate. If you don’t want to skimp on your main course, try changing up your sides. Consider lighter options such as a tossed salad, mixed fruit or grilled veggie skewers. Lightly salted pretzels or baked chips offer less sodium and fat than the regular varieties. If available, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables first before heavier items such as potato salad or chips and dip. Fruits and vegetables have a high water and fiber content to fill you up without excess calories. You will also get the added benefits of several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are needed for optimal health.


Very cold mineral water with ice in a misted glass bottles, dark background, selective focus

Making changes to your drink choices may be the simplest switch to make. Water is the best option since it provides hydration and is calorie-free. If water tastes too “plain”, try infusing it with a combination of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Infused water has a refreshing flavor and provides water soluble vitamins. Some tasty recipes include strawberry-kiwi, lemon-blueberry-mint, or even apple-cinnamon. If you want a stronger flavor, try crushing the selected items prior to placing them into the water. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least one cup of water for every cup of a caffeinated beverage that you drink.

If all else fails, remember that moderation is key. All foods can fit into a healthy and balanced lifestyle in moderation. On game day, this might mean choosing your favorite dish but accompanying it with healthier options. Watch your portion sizes and if you are feeling the urge to go for seconds, give yourself at least 10 minutes before refilling your plate. It can take your brain roughly 20 minutes to recognize fullness.


Think of these everyday objects when serving up your food:

– Hamburger: 1 serving= size of your palm

– Sides: 1 serving= tennis ball

– Chips: 1 serving= small handful

– Pie: 1 serving= light bulb

– Cookie / Brownie: 1 serving= post-it note

– Beverages: 1 serving= milk carton


Try this fiber-rich Broccoli Slaw to serve alongside your main dish:

Broccoli Slaw Recipe

Prep/cook time: 25 mins

Servings: 8      Serving size: ½ cup



4 slices of turkey bacon

1- 12 to 16-ounce bag shredded broccoli slaw or 1 large bunch broccoli (about 1 ½ lbs)

1/4 cup low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 cup finely diced red onion, (1/2 medium)

Optional- 1- 8-ounce can low-sodium sliced water chestnuts, rinsed & chopped



  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning frequently, until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, microwave on High for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.) Drain bacon on paper towels. Chop coarsely.
  2. If using whole broccoli, trim about 3 inches off the stems. Chop the rest into 1/4-inch pieces.
  3. Whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add water chestnuts, onion, bacon and broccoli; toss to coat. Chill until serving time.
  4. Make Ahead Tip: Cover and chill for up to 2 days.


Nutritional Information

Per serving: 80 calories; 4 g fat(1 g sat); 2 g fiber; 8 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 35 mcg folate; 15 mg cholesterol; 3 g sugars; 1 g added sugars; 1301 IU vitamin A; 40 mg vitamin C; 49 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 376 mg sodium; 222 mg potassium

Source: Eating Well-



By: Elizabeth Hall, RDN, LDN and Lisa Swearingen, ETSU Dietetic Intern