A balanced offense

Published 7:59 am Sunday, September 1, 2013

TailgatingTailgating and football have gone together naturally for years, conjuring images of burgers, brats, beans and catch in the parking lot of the big game.

As time has progressed though, the iconic tailgating setting has begun change, as a balance is being sought between the normal tailgate fare and healthy eating.

“People are looking for things that are easy to make and tend to involve cheese and meat,” said Hy-Vee dietitian Jen Haugen. “People are seeing more options.”

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While the idea of adding a healthier bent to the typical tailgating fare can make some people cringe, the idea isn’t necessarily as frightening as it sounds to those who still like to load the meat wagon for the pre-game festivities. If anything eating healthier can lend itself to new flavors.

“Even within the brat world there’s turkey brats and chicken sausage,” Haugen said. “The demand in stores is changing. People are looking for more flavors.”

What balancing the tailgate comes down to is choice, and reaching that balance isn’t as hard as it sounds.

“There’s always room for balance,” Haugen said. “If you really enjoy ribs, there’s room for that, just balance it out. Add some fruit to your plate.

“Just try and balance it so it’s not all covered with meat.”

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One of the things Haugen is seeing in the realm of tailgating is often theme-based.

“Things I see sometimes focus on the colors of their favorite teams,” Haugen said. “And integrating them in fun new ways.”

That opens a lot of avenues of trying to combine new foods, but as you plan your tailgating party what often comes to the forefront is a need for simplicity. In a parking lot filled with other people doing the same thing, anything complicated could add difficulties to the day.

“I would say as simple as possible,” Haugen said. “Things you can eat with your hands. People really gravitate to that.”

 The beverage equation

Of course, food is one side of the tailgating party, but the other side is naturally beverages. More often than not that tends to swing between soda and beer, but when it comes to drink, there isn’t much difference between beverages and the food half of things.

“You want fresh beverages,” Haugen said. “Beer for those who want it, but on some of these days where it’s hot, you want something that can quench your thirst. Maybe something like fresh strawberry lemonade.”

No matter how you slice it there is no real formula for tailgating other than to have fun.

Having a balanced unique tailgate buffet can only enhance the experience and ensure your fellow tailgaters have a fun and unique experience.