Football Food: Keeping Tradition

Ah, fall.  It's that wonderful time of year when the weather gets cooler, leaves turn, and rivalries come out to play.  Well, the weather sure is hell isn't getting any cooler right now, but game day must go on.

Football and healthy eating don't really meet the tradition do they?  In my experience, football food consists of greasy dips, endless amounts of animal meat, and free-flowing handles of booze.  If you aren't actually at the game, we won't even mention how much sitting on your ass you'll be doing while you watch 19 year olds display more physical exertion in 2 1/2 hours than you've seen in a week's time.

That's what makes football, football.  Right?


We all love our traditions, football tailgating included, and often we mistake the logistics for what those traditions actually bring us.  When we gather to watch a football game, it's about way more than just the food (or taking bets to see who can discern what Lou Holtz is actually saying).  It's about community.  Gathering.  Sharing.  We crave the event to bring us together.  We can laugh, cry, scream, and yell at something we all have in common; our love for football.  It gives us an opportunity to get to know one another better, create bonds over common interests, and more simply - just give us an excuse to set down our busy schedule and be with one another.

Reminding ourselves of all the reasons we love to gather around the table and how often we like to do so, we have so many opportunities to make better choices for ourselves when it comes to food.

We can still gather, have community, and keep tradition with healthier choices.

Alright, so how do we keep in tradition with what we've come to know and love as the game day spread?

Let's take some typical football food and do a little trickeration.

Salsa:  Probably the one and only dip that is hard to screw up (but it happens, believe me).  Everybody loves salsa.  Don't mess with that one.  Just make sure you don't have any added sugar or chicken fat (WHY?!).

Spinach Artichoke Dip:  Dairy seems to be the base for every other dip out there.  You wouldn't cap your football knowledge based on one play, would you?  Let's break out of the dairy trap and explore some other food groups.   This one is a crowd favorite (even those, like my weirdo husband, who don't like artichokes enjoy it).  Cashews can make for an amazing creamy base to saturate all the leafy greens, onions, and garlic.  This recipe can be made ahead so all you have to do is bake it during the the first half and it's ready for your half-time break.

I got this recipe from Yup...It's Vegan!  So please check out her blog!

Hummus:  Don't roll your eyes at me.  I know what you're thinking.  Who the hell eats hummus at a tailgate?  Well, it's a dip and hummus is made from beans, so you can call it bean dip.  There are a ridiculous amount of variations of hummus pre-made on the market now it would be ridiculous not to mention it.  I'm particularly fond of the Hope Brand.  They have twelve different varieties, including chocolate and jalapeno.  Ps.  I am in no way getting in kick backs for mentioning this brand.  I just love them (Hey, Hope!  You can pay me in hummus!).

There are many other brands on the market.  I also love Engine 2 because they are oil-free and still wonderfully delicious.  Remember to read your labels!  Many brands are also sneaky with gross oils.  Look for minimal, real ingredients.

Hummus is also incredibly easy to make.  The flavor combos are endless.  Think about what you like.  My house likes pizza.  So, enter Pizza Hummus.  Even when I force my dip-hating son (I know.  Dip haters.  What is wrong with these people?!) to eat some, he will get behind this one without too much complaint.

Chips:  This is a sneaky little sucker.  Everybody loves chips.  We must have something to scoop the dips!  The problem is, you end up eating the entire bag.  And then some.  Check the ingredients for added oil, sugar, or things you can't pronounce.  When you pick up a bag, turn it over and read before you buy.

Some alternatives:
- fresh raw veggies like cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, jicama, etc.
- baked potato slices
- bean chips, these are most likely to still have oil, but you'll get the added benefit of beans!
- baked tortillas or pita bread, ezekiel is good brand for this
- romaine leaves or any other stiff leafy
- pickles
- brown rice crackers

Wings:  We love wings because of the sauce.  Salty, goopy sauce.  Swap the meat for cauliflower and save yourself.  Let's compare an entire head of cauliflower to 5 wings.

One Entire HEAD of Cauliflower
5 Wings from WingZone
146 calories
275 calories - without batter
1.6g fat
20g fat
0g saturated fat
6g saturated fat
0g cholesterol
132g cholesterol
12g fiber
0g fiber
11g protein
20g protein
55% B-6
8% iron
472% Vitamin C
I couldn’t find any other data on added nutrition, but I feel confident in saying this can’t beat 472% of your daily need for Vitamin C.

Try this recipe and your fingers will still get messy and your firey mouth will be happy.

Dogs:  Hot dogs are gross.  #sorrynotsorry  They are, however, an American tradition.  Thankfully you have some alternatives.  One, there are several other options on the shelves for veggie dogs.  Heat and serve.  Done.  Take a peak next time you're at the grocery store.  Two, make your own.  I posted a gluten-based recipe a while ago that my kiddos love.  I make these any time we don't want to eat lips and assholes.  Three, there are a few recipes floating around for carrot dogs.  Between you and me, I am never going to waste my time trying this.  I just can't.  Google it if you want.

Booze:  By now, you may already guess what I have to say about this.  Be real with yourself here.  If you want to indulge, go for it.  But you know damn well that it won't be helping you make any steps forward to a healthier lifestyle.  In fact, you'll be stumbling every where.  Don't take this as an excuse to blow every other effort you want to make.  You wouldn't slash all three of your other tires if you got one flat would you?  Just keep in mind what you want for yourself when you have a bottle of Jack Daniels staring you in the face.

Football is on every weekend from August to February.  Saturdays happen every week; this is not a special occasion.  You have to build your normal when it comes to making better food choices.

At the end of the game, your football community will still be watching with you - even if you choose the veggies.

So whatever the choices are you make for the day, be happy with them.  Oh, and stay away from the funk house pickles...

Read more about Football and Veganism:
David Carter, The 300 Pound Vegan
Sports Illustrated, Griff Whalen
What are Footballs Made From?
Eating Vegan at Stadiums Across the Country

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