Fall would seem incomplete without a thrilling football game and big tailgate blowout. If images of high-calorie finger foods and beer cans come to mind, have no fear! These simple tips will help keep you on your healthful track … while still leaving room for a beer, brownie or two.

  • Come Wearing Your 'Game-Face:' Whether you're at the game itself or are watching at home with friends and family, come prepared and set a plan for yourself around food. Balance the munchies out between one or two indulgent items that you absolutely love along with healthier options. Make a small plate for yourself rather than grazing across the snack table…calories due to ‘mindless munching' can add up quickly!
  • Dips Don't Have to Sit the Sidelines : Lighten up your favorite onion or spinach-artichoke dip but keep the flavor with reduced-fat versions of sour cream and mayonnaise. Cut the calories, fat and saturated fat in half, saving yourself 30-50 calories per serving and 3-5 grams of fat. Keep in mind that a single serving is two tablespoons. In addition, decreasing the amount of saturated fat will keep your heart healthy and keep cholesterol levels down. Salsa’s also a great dip option, super low in calories and packed with flavor and fresh vegetables.
  • Bring on the Fresh Vegetables : Bring fresh cut vegetables into the mix to balance out chips. Baby carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper strips and snap peas can provide the crunch you’re looking for with an added bonus of Vitamins A and C and antioxidants. Whole wheat pretzels and baked potato chips or tortilla chips can round out a table … if you’re a die hard fan of the original version, have one or two handfuls of the real thing to satisfy your craving.
  • Smart Substitutions : Lighten up tailgating standbys like fried chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs and chili and fill up on hearty, healthy fare during halftime. Swap fried chicken for roasted chicken wings or skinless chicken breast strips – marinate in a light BBQ sauce and save big on calories and fat. One serving of fried chicken boasts a whopping 400 calories and nearly 25grams of fat! Grill up turkey sausages or hotdogs and extra-lean hamburgers or veggie burgers. Burgers from game meats like bison and ostrich can also be a more healthful option with 75% less saturated fat than ground beef. Finally, kick up the flavor with a spicy chili made with lean ground turkey or chicken or simply vegetables and beans for a filling meal to get you through the second half.
  • Betting on Beverages : You know this trick … reach for a lite beer to skim down on calories. Remember, one 12oz beer averages 110 calories. Four or five beers quickly racks up calories, so drink in moderation and stay well-hydrated with water or club soda throughout the game.
  • Scoring for Sweets : Whether cookies or brownies are your vice, think less is more. Choose your favorite so you’ll really enjoy it — have a small piece to finish off a great game.

Marissa Lippert is a registered dietitian in Manhattan who helps clients lead balanced lifestyles, enjoying food while actively achieving dietary, weight, health and wellness goals. Marissa works to bring her clients back into the kitchen, making grocery shopping and cooking healthful, quick, and simply delicious. She keeps her finger on the pulse of what busy, informed individuals need and want when it comes to living and eating well. Voted as one of New York's "Best Nutritionists" in 2007 by New York Citysearch, Marissa currently counsels clients through her self-owned company, Nourish. She frequently contributes to numerous publications including Glamour, The New York Times, Women's Health, Woman's Day, Runners World, and Health magazine and has partnered with Equinox Gyms, Whole Foods, Disney and other corporations to plan and promote nutrition and healthy cooking programming and seminars. For more information, see Marissa's website.

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