Happy Tailgating Tips

Tailgating is a popular way to spend time before sporting events, concerts, and festivals.  Also know as a long car picnic, tailgating involves a lot of "sometimes" foods that aren't always good for us.  With a little planning, you can have healthy and delicious foods at your next tailgate party!

Tailgating parties can sometimes last for several hours, so keep food safety in mind as you think about your menu.  Try these tips below to have a nutritious and safe tailgating party this season.

Favorite finger foods
Most tailgate meals are best eaten with your hands.  To really show off your team spirit, create fruit and vegetable kabobs in your team colors.  Kabobs are great prepared the day before and are easy to take along in plastic containers with lids or on covered platters.  Eat them cold or toss them on your portable grill to bring out the natural sweetness that makes fruits and vegetables so delicious.  If grilling, soak the wooden skewers for about 30 minutes before placing fruits and veggies on them.

Wraps can also be prepared ahead of time, and then cut into finger-ready pinwheel slices for serving.  The options for fillings are many -- your favorite vegetables and hummus, sliced meats with crunchy veggies, tuna or chicken salad with grapes and lettuce.  When preparing your pinwheels, you may want to use toothpicks to hold your fillings in place.

For a different take on chips and dip, try your favorite raw or blanched sliced veggies instead of chips and serve with hummus.  Or, create your own dip by mixing plain Greek yogurt with dry ranch dressing mix.  If you are having tortilla chips, an FSNE favorite MyPlate Salsa make a great dip, as well as our Peach Salsa or Mango Salsa.

Don't forget to add some whole fruit to your tailgate menu.  The ultimate finger food, whole fruits can be stored safely at room temperature and are a great post-game snack.  Peaches, plums, apples, and pears are currently in-season and may be available at your local farmers' market.  Bring a jar of nut butter for dipping if you want a more hearty snack.  Cantaloupe and watermelon are great choices too - just slice and enjoy!   Be sure to wash all whole fruits before packing, even the cantaloupe and watermelon.

Safety first
If you are going to be cooking meat at your tailgate, always remember to keep raw meat separate from cooked meat, including any dishes you have used for preparation.  Expert tailgaters keep their raw and cooked meat in separate labeled coolers, have separate utensils and prep surfaces, and have plenty of ice on hand to keep things cold.  It's a good idea to keep drinks in their own labeled cooler, and vegetables in their own cooler separate from raw meat.

Remember that foods should be thrown out after 2 hours if left at room temperature.  Otherwise, be sure to keep cold foods at or below 40 degrees and hot foods at or above 140 degrees.

With all your delicious and nutritious food on display, plan for your neighbors to want to sample your menu.  When tailgating, always bring enough to share!

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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall