Tailgating without breaking the bank or belt buckle

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Sometimes the thought of eating a healthier diet is appealing for some college students. But at a tailgate, the thought of healthy eating usually gets pushed aside as the healthier option usually costs more than the cheaper, heavily processed tailgating snacks. Luckily, various healthy eating websites are filled with tasty recipes that are quick and easy to make, even on a college student’s budget.

There is nothing like grilling before a big football game. However, burgers every weekend is not good for a healthy diet. According to Karin Collin’s Oct. 14, 2005 NBC News article, “Nutrition Notes: The best kind of veggie burger,” eating a veggie burger versus a burger made with 90 percent lean ground beef could save anywhere from 15 to 25 grams of saturated fat. I tried out a black bean veggie burger for a healthier option at a family tailgate, and I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it.

While I found my recipe on allrecipes.com, there are hundreds of other veggie burger recipes online. I decided on the black bean veggie burger because not only did it lack mushrooms, but also because I have heard the great reviews on the red meat alternative.

The recipe calls for black beans, green bell pepper, onion, garlic, egg, chili powder, cumin, thai chili sauce and bread crumbs. The total was only $10.74 to make four burgers. I followed the recipe and combined the mashed beans with the finely chopped bell pepper, onion and garlic and stirred it all together. Then, I stirred the egg, chili powder, cumin and chili sauce together in a separate bowl. I combined the ingredients from the two bowls and added some bread crumbs until the mixture held together. I then divided the mixture into four well-portioned patties. I placed the patties on some aluminum foil and grilled for about seven minutes on each side.

The hardest part about this recipe was chopping up the bell pepper and the onion, but even that was not very challenging. I initially thought that a veggie burger would not have the same satisfying taste of a typical beef hamburger, but I actually found the veggie burger to be extremely appetizing. The only issue with this recipe is they do not come already made like all-beef hamburgers. They require about 15 minutes of prep time.

Another football favorite that can usually cause people to loosen their belt buckle is seven-layer bean dip. I finally found a online recipe that can help to cut down some calories. It even has the same great taste as the traditional tailgate appetizer.

I found the recipe on eatingwell.com, titled, “Southwestern Layered Bean Dip.” The full list of ingredients can be found on their website. Basically, the recipe took all of the classic ingredients in the bean dip and substituted them with reduced-fat counterparts. In addition, this dip also includes nutritious foods such as avocados, lettuce and tomatoes. The prep time is only 20 minutes and includes servings for 4 people at just 146 calories each serving. I tried this recipe out on my family and did not mention to them that it was reduced fat or that it only cost me $5. They all complimented me on actually cooking a full meal that tasted good.

Some additional healthy sides to serve at a tailgate that will not break the bank are things like choosing to buy veggie straws over buying the classic potato chip. They taste just as good, and you still achieve the salty crunch of a potato chip. Another easy and healthier option is to purchase grapes as a side. Though grapes can be kind of pricey, shopping smart and buying in bulk for a tailgate is the best way to save some cash. Buying a large 4 lbs. bag of grapes from Dillons only cost me around $3, and it is very refreshing to snack on at a tailgate.

Concerning drinks, most people realize that picking things like water over soda is a great way to save money and calories. If you really just need some kind of a flavor in your water, all natural lemon juice only costs about a dollar. Lemon juice will help to cleanse the liver and kidneys, while also cleaning your mouth.

Eating healthy does take more thought than grabbing the typical potato chip bag for a tailgate. Just remember there are simple recipes that will make eating healthy taste great, are easy to prepare and, most importantly for the college student, are cheap.

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