Prairie Fare: Try some tailgating treats during football season

Julie Garden-Robinson
NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist

I looked at the stapled thick packet of instructions on my first day as a member of the NDSU Gold Star Marching Band. I was a teenager at the time.

I studied the multiple pages of maps of the football field with compass directions and arrows. I was an “x” on the map on some yard line.

What had I signed up for, anyway?

I was supposed to find my spot and be ready to play as we marched to the drum cadence. Then I was to move according to the maps on the next pages. I needed to memorize my music and the “movement playbook” that varied for each song.

The maps could have been written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. I had no clue what all these symbols meant. I hadn’t paid much attention to the markings on football fields at that point in my life.

I was supposed to play my flute, move my feet in unison with everyone around me and navigate around the field in time to the music. I also needed to breathe now and then.

After that first day, I was ready to quit. I was worried about being the point on the trademark star formation. Would I accidentally turn and march in the opposite direction of everyone else? How embarrassing would that be?

Trust me: No one in my family asks me for navigational instructions.

I talked to the band director after rehearsal. I told him I didn’t think I could do this. He chuckled, and he didn’t let me quit.

“Give it a couple days, Julie,” he advised me.

I became much more persistent and learned from the experienced marchers around me.

I played in the band for three years, and quite soon, navigating the field was old hat to me and I was training in the “newbies” the next year. We played in the rain, sleet and snow on the old outdoor field.

Through the years, the band director teased me about nearly quitting band after the first day, even after I graduated.

Whether you are lounging on your sofa, sitting in the stands or marching in a band, football season brings lots of excitement. We all have favorite game day snacks.

Can you think of some popular items to enjoy during games? You might like chili, pizza, meatballs, chips and salsa, spinach and artichoke dip, wings, quesadillas or a wide variety of snacks. Here are some ideas on ways to make tailgating a little easier on the waistline:

• If you like chili made with beef, choose lean or extra-lean ground beef. For a change of pace, try making “white chili” with chicken or turkey breast and various white beans.

• If pizza is your go-to game-day food, load up pizza with fresh vegetables, use low-fat cheese and try a whole-grain thin crust. Use turkey pepperoni instead of regular, and add an extra kick with some crushed red pepper.

• How about some meatballs? To trim fat and calories, choose a leaner cut of meat, such as extra-lean ground beef. Drain excess fat before adding sauce, then serve with fat-free barbecue sauce or a marinara sauce.

• Hungry for chips and salsa? Try using baked tortilla chips for dipping instead of regular chips. Compare sodium levels of your favorite brands of chips.

• Do you like spinach and artichoke dip? Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They also contain vitamin E, a disease-fighting antioxidant. Spinach is an excellent source of eye-healthy pigments, plus many vitamins and minerals. To slim down your dip recipe, use light or fat-free sour cream or mayonnaise. Try using whole-grain bread for dipping.

• Do your guests expect your famous homemade wings or chicken nuggets when they visit on game day? Try using a slow cooker or the oven in place of deep-fat frying to prepare wings. Make homemade baked chicken nuggets instead of wings.

• If quesadillas are your go-to game-day food, try using low-fat cheese or less regular cheese. Use grilled chicken breasts and load the quesadillas with veggies. Serve them with chunky salsa.

See to view “Your Game Plan: Healthful Snacking for Sports Fans.” It includes several recipes mentioned in this column.

I like all kinds of chili on the cooler days of fall, so here’s a tasty chili recipe to enjoy.

White Chicken Chili

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies

2 (16-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, cooked (may substitute soaked, cooked dry beans)

3 tsp. ground cumin

3 c. cooked chicken or turkey, diced

2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 c. Monterey Jack cheese or other cheese of choice

Cheese, chips, sour cream and salsa (optional)

Combine 3 cups of broth, onion, chilies, beans and cumin. Simmer for an hour. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups cheese and chicken. Cook until chili is thick and add additional broth as needed. Top with shredded cheese, nacho chips, sour cream and salsa if desired.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 220 calories, 6 grams (g) fat, 25 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber and 410 milligrams sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

NDSU Gold Star Marching Band.