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Football Parties and Tailgating: Healthy game day foods

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Want to host a football party or other gathering this year that’s super healthy? The following menu tips can help you score big with family or friends.

The main event
Consider making soup, such as chili, when cooking for a crowd. They can be made ahead and kept warm in a slow cooker, so that you can enjoy your guests (and the game) without needing to be in the kitchen cooking.

For chili, you might choose extra-lean beef or turkey for some added protein. Or, you could forget about adding any meat and add extra beans instead. (Rinsing canned beans reduces the sodium content by at least one-fourth.) Provide homemade croutons and reduced-fat shredded cheese or fat-free sour cream for a garnish to top it off.

Healthy side-lines
Add to your menu with side dishes that you’ve made healthier:

  • Cornbread Earn points by serving some whole grains.  How? Use whole wheat flour for half of the white flour in your cornbread recipe. For less fat per serving, use fat-free plain yogurt instead of the oil called for in your recipe.
  • Dips For a yummy dip, use fat-free plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream instead of regular sour cream whenever you make a dip. Make a healthy move by using fresh veggie dippers or baked chips instead of regular chips.
  • Leafy greens Instead of a dressing to go with your fresh salad, serve a platter arranged with mounds of veggies, such as cooked lentils, boiled potato pieces, whole kernel sweet corn, fresh radishes, avocado slices and bell pepper strips.
  • Brownie recipes can be healthier by making simple alterations. Reduce the sugar in your recipe by one-third without fearing that anyone will blow a whistle! Also, use whole wheat flour for half of the white flour, and replace the oil with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce.
  • Other healthy items include: popcorn, potato skins, a whole wheat pasta salad and coleslaw.

Active entertainment
To kick up the health notch on your game-day get-together, make your event less focused on food and more on fun! Here are a few ideas for group activities to do when there’s a lull in the game, and it’ll also help burn up those extra calories:

  • Go outside and throw a football around. Bad weather? Throw a soft toy ball, or a balloon, in the house to each other.
  • Have your guests pass a football from one person to the next, but without using any hands.
  • Search for football bloopers on YouTube to watch funny videos.  Laughing burns calories!
  • Hold a juggling contest using gloves/mittens, hats or scarves.

Referee a safe party
Large gatherings can increase the chance of getting a foodborne illness. By closely refereeing the following food safety violations, you can play good defense against foodborne illness. Since you can’t replay unsafe food practices, make plans now to be sure that you and other party goers return home as winners.

Illegal use of hands
Unclean hands are one of the biggest ways that bacteria are spread. Finger foods at parties put your team especially at risk. Finger-licking guests may reach into a chip bowl or vegetable tray, spreading unwanted bacteria. Avoid penalties for illegal use of hands by providing/asking for/using spoons, tongs, toothpicks, etc., to help avoid contaminating foods by touching them directly. Chefs and guests should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

Think of party foods as being on two different teams — the uncookeds against the ready-to-eats. Keep each team in its own zone. Juices from uncooked raw meats contain harmful bacteria that can contaminate ready-to-eat foods. If possible, use one cutting board for uncooked meat and poultry, and another board for cutting veggies and ready-to-eat foods. If you use only one cutting board, wash it well with hot soapy water after each use and then rinse it.

Tackle temperatures
Call a “time out” and use a food thermometer to be sure that protein foods are safely cooked. The internal temperature, not meat color, indicates doneness. Cook fish to 145 degrees F. Cook beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to 145 degrees F. and then allow to “rest” for three or more minutes before carving or eating. Cook ground meats to 160 degrees F. Cook all poultry to 165 degrees F.

This is one of the most likely offenses when a party lasts late into the night. Never hold hot or cold foods for more than two hours at room temperature. Serve cold foods over ice, if possible. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly to block offensive bacteria from multiplying. If a perishable food has been at room temperature for more than two hours, do not eat it. When in doubt, throw it out of the game ... and out of the party.

Ask a coach
To avoid food safety penalties, make sure that you understand the rules completely. Our Master Food Volunteer Rapid Response Line at 715-7070 is a great resource for food safety and healthy eating guidelines. We’re happy to help!

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