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Heart-Healthy Alternatives to Traditional Tailgating Food

heart healthy tailgating foods

The Broncos’ season is underway and, combined with all the great high school and college football programs around, that means we’ll all be enjoying a lot of tailgating over the next few months.

The problem with this is that tailgating foods can be bad for your heart.  Heart-healthy tailgating foods have a double benefit. Not only do they help you stay healthy so you can enjoy more tailgating seasons, but they also provide some variety from the same old tailgating recipes that everyone serves. Since grilling is common when tailgating, start by checking out our heart-healthy grilling tips, then try some of these specific substitutions.

A Burger Alternative

There’s nothing quite like a burger on game day, so why not substitute a veggie burger for your meat burger? We know many people roll their eyes at this, but that’s just because they’ve never really tried quality burgers made with vegetarian ingredients.

While there are plenty of veggie burger options at the store, making your own patties at home gives you more control over the salt and fat content. Plus, it lets you tweak the recipe until you come up with one that you actually prefer over the standard ground beef.

A Hot Wings Alternative

Although chicken is generally healthier than red meat, hot wings can be pretty bad. This part of the chicken is fatty and high in cholesterol. The wings can be deep-fried and slathered in sauces loaded with fat, salt, and sugar.

If you can’t do without your wings, try roasting them, grilling them, or using an air-fryer. Instead of sauces, consider a dry rub. And skip the ranch or bleu cheese dressing.

An even healthier alternative is grilled cauliflower. Just a touch of oil can help cauliflower darken and crisp in a tasty way on the grill, and cauliflower is great at picking up the flavor. Toss with spices or sauce lightly. Here is a Heart Healthy cauliflower recipe to try!

A Hot Dog Alternative

reduce cardiovascular issues with heart healthy tailgatingProcessed red meat, like hot dogs, are very damaging to the heart.  Research shows that eating slightly more than 5 ounces or more of processed meat a week increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 46% and the risk of death by 50% when compared to eating no processed meat. To give you an idea, 5 ounces of processed meat is equivalent to approximately:

The same is true for fruit and vegetable skewers. With skewers, you can make the slices small enough to cook quickly while getting just the right touch of char. Experiment with different vegetables and spices until you find the right crowd-pleasing combination.

With practice, you can even learn to clamp the veggies with a bun and pull the skewer out to quickly serve a healthy and tasty grilled veggie sandwich. This is as easy to grill as a hot dog, tastes better, and has the benefit of being heart healthy.

Choose Healthier Chili

Chili is a great food to bring tailgating. It’s warm and hearty, perfect for those postseason games where the days have grown short, and the weather has turned cold.

Another benefit of chili is that it’s easy to make healthier. All you have to do to make chili more heart healthy is to skip the pork or beef and substitute chicken or make a vegetarian chili. Chili is all about the spices, and it’s quite possible to make a hearty, tasty chili that’s low in fat and high in antioxidants. Favor a tomato-based broth because tomatoes are good for heart health.

Only one caution: keep the salt levels low. Salt is a short-cut to flavor that many people lean on too heavily when first making vegetarian chili. However, too much salt can undermine the heart-healthy benefits of vegetarian chili.

Check Your Heart Health

Not sure how much you need to be concerned about your heart health? Let South Denver Cardiology Associates help. We can assess the health of your heart to help you understand your level of risk – and whether you should be rapidly changing your diet – or if you can take a more gradual approach.

Please call 303-744-1065 to request an appointment at South Denver Cardiology Associates, serving the South Denver area and Littleton with locations in Englewood, Denver, Parker, and Castle Rock.

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