Games On with These Healthy Sports Fan Favorite Foods
Andrew Purcell

The gridiron may feature a ferocious battle between two hungry opponents, but in many ways the real competition takes place in parking lots and living rooms. That’s where fans slip on their jerseys and aprons and try to outduel each other with a smorgasbord of fatty sausages, calorie-bomb dips, greasy chips, and cheese-drenched nachos that can quickly turn into a dietary fumble with waistline repercussions far beyond Monday morning. But if you rustle up some of your own less-damaging grub, it’s possible to enjoy tailgating without requiring a toss of the nutritional yellow flag. 

SEE ALSO: 12 Healthy Dishes to Bring to a Party

Whether you’re perched on the couch with a few buddies or you’ve set up shop in the stadium parking lot, these MVP dishes are sure to please a crowd of hungry fans and keep you and your guests from packing on more pounds than a lineman. So chill the beer, pull up a chair, and get ready to score your taste buds a win.

Meatball tacos

Meatball Tacos

Meatballs and tacos make an appearance at many gameday feasts in one form or another. This twist on tacos is a spicy and filling fan favorite that you’ll end up making even when the season is over when you need a quick and tasty dinner.

Ingredients (serves 5)

1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb canned or fresh tomatillos, husked
1 avocado
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
2 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
10 corn tortillas
1/3 cup


1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook mushrooms and onion until liquid has evaporated. Cool for 10 minutes.

2. Mix pork, bread crumbs, cumin, chili powder, ó tsp salt, and black pepper and form into golf ball–size meatballs.

3. Preheat grill to medium. Thread meatballs onto skewers and heat until cooked through. Or place meatballs on a greased baking tray and cook at 425°F for 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 165°F.

4. Blend tomatillos, avocado, sour cream, scallions, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, and 1/4 tsp salt. Divide meatballs among tortillas and top with tomatillo sauce and cilantro.


You can make the meatballs with ground chicken or turkey and swap out the corn tortillas for Bosto lettuce leaves.

The Macros

Calories: 532
Protein: 23g
Carbs: 42g
Fat: 21g

Chili mac cheese
Brian Klutch

Chili Mac & Cheese

This one-pot wonder is the perfect make-ahead meal for keeping a rowdy crowd of football fans well fed. And by incorporating whole-grain carbs, lean beef, hearty beans, and vegetables, there is little chance your physique will be brought down.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 tbsp canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb lean ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups whole-wheat elbow pasta
1 (14 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
6 cups baby spinach

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese


1. Heat oil in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and salt; cook until vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in beef and garlic; heat until meat is browned. Stir in oregano, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper; heat 30 seconds.

2. Add pasta, beans, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.Once simmering, cover the pot and cook until pasta is al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and heat just until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.


Splurge and treat your friends to ground bison for added nutrition. Pinto beans can stand in for kidney beans, and kale is another option for some green power.

The Macros

Calories: 415
Protein: 34g
Carbs: 50g
Fat: 10g

Nuts dip

Chickpea Snack Mix 

Often piled high with items like pretzels and boxed cereal bits, most carbed-up bowls of oversalted snack mixes should be relegated to the sidelines. This winning combination of crunchy chickpeas, nutrientdense nuts, protein-laden savory meat, and antioxidant-rich dried fruit is much more worthy of grabbing by the handful.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 (14 oz) can chickpeas
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 oz chopped jerky or other cured, dried meat
1/2 cup unsalted roasted almonds
1/2 cup unsalted roasted cashews
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup unsalted roasted pumpkin seeds


1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place chickpeas in a strainer and rinse, then air-dry 15 minutes. Pat away excess moisture with paper towel. You want the chickpeas to be  as dry as possible, so they can get crisp. Remove any loose skins.

2. Place chickpeas in a large bowl and toss with oil. Add paprika, salt, and black pepper and coat chickpeas. Spread chickpeas on rimmed baking sheet and cook about 35 minutes, stirring at least twice for even toasting. Turn off oven and let cool.

3. Toss with jerky, almonds, cashews, apricots, cherries, and pumpkin seeds in a serving container.


You can press the easy button and use a brand of store-bought roasted chickpeas such as Biena.

The Macros

Calories: 374
Protein: 16g
Carbs: 40g
Fat: 18g

Chipolte Black Bean Dip

Bacon-cheese and other popular gameday dips are often a gut bomb. To make double-dipping much less hazardous to your six-pack, this dip features a one-two punch of protein-packed Greek yogurt and black beans, which brings dietary fiber to the party to help take the edge off hunger. And we’ve swapped out lackluster chips for a pile of DIY pita crisps that will surely award you many cheers.


1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 small chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper
3 large whole-wheat pitas


1. Place beans, yogurt, 2 tbsp olive oil, tomato paste, chipotle chili pepper, lime juice, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper in a food processor or a blender container and blend until smooth.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice pitas in half, then slice each half into thirds to form triangle shapes. Pull each pita triangle apart so you end up with 6 pieces per pita half. Lay on two baking sheets. Whisk  together 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Brush pita tops. Bake about 8 minutes.

3. Place dip in serving bowl and serve with pita chips.


To keep the carb count lower, you can opt for sliced vegetables like jicama, red bell pepper, and broccoli florets instead of the pita chips.

The Macros

Calories: 268
Protein: 9g
Carbs: 32g
Fat: 12g

Bbq chicken skewers
Honey Mustard Skewers

Instead of serving a pile of sticky wings and then suffering postgame nutrition guilt, assemble a winning team of these skewers to help youscore a better source of muscle-building protein.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

3 tbsp honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tbsp canola oil
Zest of 1 medium orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
2 lbs chicken tenders
6 skewers


1. Place honey in a bowl and microwave for 20 seconds or until liquefied. Whisk in mustard, oil, orange zest, lemon juice, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt. Divide sauce in half.

2. Thread chicken onto skewers. If using wood skewers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before using to prevent them from burning on the grill. Brush on half the sauce and chill for 30 minutes or up to overnight.

3. Heat a greased grill or grill pan to mediumhigh. Place skewers on grill and heat until chicken is cooked through, turning once, about 4 minutes per side. Brush on remaining sauce. Alternatively, preheat broiler. Place chicken skewers on a lightly greased baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes. Flip skewers and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Brush on remaining sauce.


Replace chicken with chunks of turkey breast or even peeled shrimp to mix up your protein game.

The Macros

Calories: 439
Protein: 22g
Carbs: 32g
Fat: 31g