Most people view the act of tailgating as an all-out overindulgence when it comes to eating, drinking, and celebrating. How on earth can someone possibly stay committed to their diet while tailgating? That is the fear many people trying to stay committed to a healthy lifestyle and eating habits have when it comes to tailgating. The low-carb craze may not be at its height like it was a few years ago but there still are a large number of people that subscribe to a low-carb lifestyle. Here are a few tips for tailgating the low-carb way.
If you already subscribe to a low-carb lifestyle you probably are familiar with the major high carbohydrate offenders like pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, and sugar. Unfortunately, many tailgate menus contain these foods that are typically high in carbohydrates. Hamburgers and hot dogs normally come on a bun. A big-time no-no for low-carb people. Dips are almost always served with some sort of chips. Whether they are potato, tortilla, or corn chips, these are also a no go for low-carb dieters. Many desserts like cookies and cakes are always on a tailgate party serving table too. With this said, what can a low-carb dieter eat while tailgating? The simple answer: Lots of things.
First of all, the tailgating arena is a low-carb festival. Go to any tailgate party and you will see tons of meat on the grill. Assuming that the meats have not been drowned in a sugary BBQ sauce or a high-carb marinade, anything that comes off the grill is normally fair game for low-carb eaters. Just make sure to skip the bun and you can have cheeseburgers, hot dogs, bratwursts, chicken, steaks, pork chops, etc. Grab a paper plate, a plastic fork, and a knife and dig in. Ask for an extra slice of cheese for that burger and you are good to go. A green salad is always a good compliment to whatever you are having from the grill also. Just hold the croutons on your salad.
Normally whatever is being served at your particular tailgate party that comes off the grill is fair game. What about all the snacks beforehand the meat is served? Many tailgates serve dips like Ranch dip, French onion dip, blue cheese dressing, or salsa reserved for dipping potato chips or corn ships. A simple trick for low-carb tailgating is to substitute the chips for a low-carb vegetable like celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, or bell peppers. (Make sure to not fall into the common pitfall of lumping carrots into this same category. A ½ cup of carrots has 7 grams of carbohydrates but also 5 grams of sugars. That’s the same amount of sugar as a 5 oz. white potato! Ouch.)
Another good “finger food” snack while tailgating is good old cold cuts and cheeses. Salami, pepperoni, ham, turkey, pastrami, corned beef, and other cold cuts are typically low in carbohydrates. Just make sure to avoid any cold cuts sweetened during the preparation process. Honey-baked ham is one of those that can trick you into thinking you are eating low carb but all that honey is pure sugar and does not jive well with a low-carb diet. Most condiments and salad dressings (with the exception of ketchup) are normally low-carb and fair game to go with your meat and cheese appetizer. Just make sure to avoid the “fat-free” or “reduced fat” condiments. For some reason, low-fat and fat-free foods always have higher carbohydrate counts than their “full fat” counterparts. Another snack that is considered low-carb are nuts. Nuts do have some carbs so be careful not to go overboard with the nuts when tailgating.
So now that you have your low-carb tailgating menu nailed down, what are you going to drink? Go to any tailgate party and you will see beer and sodas as the beverages of choice. The carb conscience tailgater knows that regular beer and regular soda are killers of a low-carb diet. Consider this; a bottle of Corona Extra has 13 grams of carbohydrates per 12 oz. serving. A 12 oz. can of Coca-Cola Classic has 39 grams of carbs and 39 grams of sugar! Low-carb alternatives are diet and zero-calorie sodas that contain zero carbohydrates. Low-carb beers on the market are actually quite good if you like light beer. All the major beer manufacturers offer a low-carb light beer including Budweiser Select (3.1 grams of carbs per 12 oz.), Miller Lite (3.2 grams of carbs per 12 oz.), Coors Light (5 grams of carbs per 12 oz.) and Amstel Light (5 grams of carbs per 12 oz.) if you prefer imported beer. The lowest-carb beer on the market is Michelob Ultra at just 2.7 grams of carbs per 12 oz. serving. You could drink five Michelob Ultras and equal the same carb count as one Corona Extra. Wines are also a great way to stay low-carb while tailgating. Depending on your wine of choice, most white and red wines have 1 to 2 grams of carbs per 4 oz. serving.
A great way to stay low carb while tailgating but still drinking an “adult beverage” is to go the hard liquor route. Many distilled spirits like rum, gin, whiskey, bourbon, scotch, vodka, and tequila all contain zero carbs. That’s right, zero carbs. Just make sure to substitute your favorite mixer with a low-carb version and you are good to go. How about a 7 and 7 using Seagram’s 7 whiskies and diet 7-Up? Gin mixed with diet tonic is always a great low-carb alternative to the real thing. Good old-fashioned tequila shots at a tailgate party are low carb too. If you go a bit overboard, don’t feel guilty about eating the worm either. It’s low carb too.
As with any diet, make sure to check with your doctor to make sure it is right for you. This general guide should serve as a jumping-off point to inspire you to serve lower-carb tailgating foods. Make sure to read the labels of all foods you purchase to find out the exact carbohydrate count before preparing a low-carb meal. Many foods you assume are lower carb tend to have more carbohydrates than you would expect. Enjoy yourself while having a low-carb tailgate next time you hit the stadium.