Tailgating is like picnicking on steroids: Instead of sandwiches, fruit, cheese, and wine, you get burgers and hot dogs, fatty cold cuts or greasy chicken wings, chips, creamy dips, starchy breads, and sugary desserts. But you don't have to stay home to stay healthy—all you need is a nutritional upgrade. If you're serving burgers and dogs, trade up to lean beef and turkey on whole grain rather than white buns, and add lettuce and sliced tomato. Choose healthy chips such as Guiltless Gourmet or Garden of Eatin' (the basic ingredients are whole grain corn, canola or safflower oil, and salt). Another option is to forgo chips altogether and use sliced carrots, celery, and bell peppers to scoop your dip. (Bonus points for substituting hummus, salsa, or black bean dip for the creamy ranch and French onion.)
As for drinks, I can't argue with beer or wine if it suits the occasion. But if you're considering soda, try Polar fruit-flavored seltzers instead; all you'll be giving up is sugar, calories, and the various chemicals sodas typically include. For dessert, remember that apples are in season: Eat them as is, or try an apple crisp or cobbler.
Or try a lighter version of traditional chicken wings. The recipe below takes five minutes for prep and an hour in the oven to reduce the honey curry juices to a rich coating. Be sure to use drumsticks, as only they will remain tender and juicy.
— David L. Katz, MD