Health Team

A healthier tailgate, for the win

Football party season is upon us, which means a tailgate diet typically made up of hot dogs, wings, chips, dips and beer.

Posted Updated

Lisa Drayer
(CNN) — Football party season is upon us, which means a tailgate diet typically made up of hot dogs, wings, chips, dips and beer.

These foods may be fun to eat while cheering on your favorite team, but they are loaded with unhealthy calories, which can lead to significant weight gain by the time Super Bowl Sunday rolls around.

But you want to win, right? You want your game and your yummy food, too. Well, there are steps you easily take to avoid overindulging when hosting or attending football parties and tailgates.

Eat a healthy snack before the game

Good choices include a Greek yogurt, a banana with almonds or peanut butter, or avocado on whole-wheat toast. Grabbing a snack before the game will help you avoid the temptation to indulge in unhealthy foods once it begins. If the tailgating starts early, bring your snack with you.

Wear a belt

Adding this accessory can do more than make a fashion statement; it can help you "feel" when you've had enough to eat. Wearing a slimming pair of pants or jeans can do the same.

Include healthier foods

Whether you are a host or a guest, plan ahead. Think about what you will eat beforehand. If you are hosting, consider healthier options such as shrimp cocktail, fish tacos, grilled chicken skewers, cherry tomato and bocconcini kebobs, grilled vegetable sandwiches, turkey meatballs and veggie burgers. If you are bringing a dish, consider a veggie chili, baked kale chips, a fruit platter or a veggie platter with hummus, low-fat yogurt dip or guacamole.

Fill half your plate with plants

Whatever you choose to eat, try to fill at least half of your plate with veggies and other plant-based foods such as beans, legumes and fruit. This will boost your intake of fiber, which will keep you feeling full during the game.

Alternate beer with seltzer or water

Doing so will keep you hydrated and will curb calories from alcohol and food, since we tend to eat more when we drink. If you have the choice, choose light beers, which have fewer calories than regular ones.

Concentrate on the conversation

Tailgate parties are a great opportunity to catch up with friends and can help make your gathering more about the people than the food. This can ultimately help you avoid overindulging, especially if you are chatting at a distance from the food.

Get moving during halftime

Burn off some of those calories by taking a short walk or having a dance party during halftime. Staying active can also give you an energy boost and prevent you from constantly nibbling during the game break.

Determine your 'end zone'

Since it's so easy to mindlessly nibble when watching a game, decide at which point during the game you will stop eating. Depending on the start time of the game, it could be after the first quarter, halftime or the third quarter. And don't forget to take time-outs, too.

Amount of exercise needed to burn off tailgate foods

The table below shows how much physical activity you would need to complete in order to burn off your favorite tailgating foods:

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