When you think of tailgating, it probably conjures up visions of sizzling burgers, mustard-soaked hot dogs, cheese-laden dips, and all the snacks. And while Football Sunday definitely calls for a little indulgence (especially when your team can’t seem to hold onto the ball or find the end zone), there are bound to be times when you’re ready to sub out your weekly wings for some lighter football-friendly fare. We asked top chefs and nutritionists to share their favorite ways to sneak fall superfoods into your next tailgating dish—without skimping on flavor!
Grill up a veggie pizza
Piling fresh fall veggies on pizza dough basically makes it a salad, right? We think so, and that’s exactly what Curtis Stone, chef and owner of Maude in Beverly Hills and Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant in Hollywood, recommends. “Use different colored cauliflowers like yellow, purple, and green, or broccoli rabe and radicchio—it’s so pretty and colorful!” he says. “Add garlic, parmesan, and extra virgin olive oil and cook it off on the grill.”
Make a bean chili
“Black beans are filled with protein and fiber, which helps elevate chili to superfood status,” says Marisa Moore, registered dietician nutritionist in Atlanta. “Take it up another notch by adding in some butternut squash, kale, and quinoa for extra nutrients.” Instead of sour cream, add a dollop of protein-packed Greek yogurt on top—your fellow football fans will never know the difference!
Opt for surf instead of turf
When Melissa Joan Hart, actress and food fanatic, wants something flavorful but light, she reaches for the barbecue skewers. “Skewers are always a big hit when my family tailgates. Cubed pieces of fresh salmon are a great alternative to beef,” she says. Salmon is a source of lean protein and packed with heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids; add onion and red bell pepper chunks to your skewer for a dose of antioxidants and vitamin C. “For a little treat, I like to top my skewer with a few dollops of Heluva Good!’s Bacon Horseradish dip,” she adds.
Say hello to buffalo chicken’s skinnier cousin. “Grill up cauliflower steaks, then brush them with buffalo sauce and sprinkle with crumbled bleu cheese,” says Stone. “It’s one thing from the U.S. that I might just need to bring back to Oz!” If you’d prefer a finger food approach, sear off cauliflower florets in a cast iron pan that fits on your grill.
Go for the guac
Guacamole isn’t just a fan favorite, it’s a superfood superstar, too. “Avocados are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins E and B,” says Moore. For a nutritional boost that’s tasty, too, add chopped tomatoes and jalapeños to the mix.
Bring on the coleslaw
A seasonal coleslaw is the perfect way to let the fall bounty shine. “A slaw made of cabbage, carrots, fennel, broccoli stems, red onion, cilantro, and a vinaigrette goes with anything barbecued,” says Stone. Pile it on pulled pork sliders, a burger, or even a hot dog.
Sweeten up your potato skins
Get the joy of loaded potato skins in a sweet potato boat, instead. Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are filled with vitamin A, iron, calcium, potassium, fiber, and B vitamins, making them a healthier canvas for the creamy, meaty goodness you’ll be piling on top. “Top them with shredded cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, and some scallions and chives,” says Matt Abdoo, chef and partner at Pig Beach in Brooklyn. “You can transport them pre-cooked and pre-scooped in a Ziploc bag.”
Cook your meat in bone broth
Bone broth doesn’t just add depth of flavor to whatever you cook in it, it’s also saturated with vitamins and minerals, which some experts say provides an immune boost, quells inflammation in the body, and may even support healthy skin, nails, and hair. “We sell beef bones for making broth and stock. Braise meat like beef, lamb, or pork that broth for great flavor that you can pull for sandwiches, sliders, or lettuce wraps,” says James Peisker, founder of online meat purveyor Porter Road.
Try a veggie patty
Channel your inner herbivore by opting for a plant-based burger instead of beef. “At Pig Beach we make a patty that’s packed with lentils, chickpeas, smoked pecans, and quinoa; then, we serve it in the exact same style as our traditional burgers. It’s so delicious that you’d never know it’s healthy,” says Abdoo.
Healthify your dessert
“Add chia seeds to your homemade dessert or snack bars,” says Moore. “They add crunch, protein, and heart-healthy fats.” Cocoa-dusted almonds are also a pop-able treat that are healthier than candy—high-quality cocoa powder has been shown to help lower blood pressure levels, which supports a healthy heart, Moore adds.
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