It’s officially Fall, and down here in Alabama, that means tailgating, party hosting and attending, and family gatherings where tons of delicious, home-cooked food is served – and trust us we’re not complaining! As we enter this exciting time of year, we like to be prepared to make healthful choices, both for our diet and exercise routines so to stay on track the best we can!

We sat down with Walker, one of our Health Advisors here at Pack Health, for a few pointers as we go into another football weekend.

What works for you in your personal experience with tailgating?

It truly depends on if I’m hosting or attending. As far as hosting goes, there’s a lot of flexibility when you’re choosing what to offer. You can also delegate to those planning to attend. This is a great opportunity to encourage your attendees to bring things lower in carbohydrates and sugar.

Attending can be more difficult because most traditional ‘tailgate’ things are carb based. There also tends to be some not-so-great drink choices like alcohol and sodas. It’s certainly ok to have a drink but follow with a glass of water afterward. To keep carbs to a minimum, chicken nuggets and meatballs are better than sliders and chips and dip. That said, I love a good dip so I always like to make sure I have fresh vegetables. Cucumbers, in particular, have a mild flavor and satisfying crunch – having this alternative helps me keep the chips to a minimum.

What do you find are common problem areas for people trying to stay on track when they’re placed in a social and fun environment?

Definitely the food choices. When you’re in an environment like that, you’re getting options that you don’t normally have. For instance, how often do you have nuggets and burgers at full access? It’s fun finger food, everyone wants to indulge!

It’s tough because some people might not have the same healthy goals as you do, but you don’t want to be a stick in the mud, and you want to be able to relax and enjoy yourself. The Super Bowl is a great example. People are mainly eating and chatting and drinking, instead of actually watching the game. It’s an excuse to get together with your friends, and if your friends are all indulging, it’s extra hard to limit unhealthy options and exercise portion control.

What do you think are some ways you would suggest we tackle those pain points this upcoming tailgate weekend and on the weekends to come?

Bring something, if the host is okay with it! Bring something that’s healthier. Whether it’s veggies and hummus or low-sodium nuts, bring something so at least you know you’ll have one healthy option to choose from. If you can, bring drinks too. I just read a whole thing on infused water! How smart! And it’s so easy to get your water intake for the day and it tastes better! It’s important to stay hydrated at these events, as it helps with how you feel throughout the day.

Any swap suggestions or favorite recipes you recommend?

Nothing beats homemade hummus and homemade guacamole! I made some homemade hummus last week, it was so easy! I pulled a recipe from online and added a few spices that I thought would go well! Then I added a few veggies and was ready to go!

When it comes to guacamole, the problem isn’t the guacamole, it’s the chips. Try opting for carrots, tomatoes, or peppers instead. Every now and then a chip swap (blue tortilla or bean chips) is okay– just enjoy in moderation.

Another really great recipe I made recently is chicken meatballs. Those would be a really great option to bring to a tailgate. Although the sauce had a little sugar in it, I ate them without a bun, so from a carb standpoint, not bad at all.

What seems to work for your members? Do they have any tips and tricks they’ve used that you think others would benefit from?

The challenges of social eating are so unique to each individual. I like to make sure the member understands their motivation – sometimes we regret the choices we’ve made, so in order to avoid that, it’s important to be sure we’re conscious of our goals. Maybe before going to the event, you set a goal for yourself. For instance, I’m going to only have x drinks or x amounts of my favorite snack, or something easy like, I’m not going to hang out next to the food.

That’s our culture, we congregate around the table, so it’s hard to combat this, but what I recommend is that you use it as an opportunity to talk to the folks that aren”t by the food table.

People respond well to setting goals that make sense for them. Sometimes drinking leads to wanting to eat more, so that can be a troubling avenue. If you notice a drink or two makes you want to snack more, maybe make a goal around drinking water instead of your alcoholic beverage of choice. If you know why you’re doing something, and you’ve got an alternative plan of action, it’s a lot easier to achieve.

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