The Ketogenic Touchdown: Healthy Tailgating Recipes

healthy tailgating recipes

I am a lover of football. Who doesn’t love seeing burly men run over each other, showing their dominance and fancy foot work, making big hits, leaping catches, and listening to the roar of the stadium after a great play! GO TEAM GO!

With the excitement of football season upon us, it also means more tailgating and parties. Everyone coming together to unwind while watching America’s greatest pastime, bringing their favorite carbohydrate-laden snacks and coolers full of beer.

But how can we possibly survive tailgating and football parties while trying to be healthy? Most fall get-togethers are full of hot dogs, hamburgers, dips served with crackers and chips, beer, hot chocolate, cookies, and potatoes any which way. To a dieter, this is like putting a smooth, aged whiskey in front of an alcoholic and telling them not to have a drop.

But believe it or not, staying away from these addictive, inflammatory foods is not an impossibility.

Tackling the Carb Craze

The average football fan will consume over 6,000 calories during a tailgating party, which is considerably more than at Thanksgiving dinner. In order to burn all of those calories, we would have to run a marathon. Literally.

Is all of that food high in canola oil, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and preservatives worth it?!

Let me paint the picture of what happens at a typical football party. For two to three hours we graze the tables of food, stuffing our faces and eating well beyond our tipping point. Beer after beer we wash down our food, adding to our full, bloated bellies. By the end of the game we are in a food coma, stomach upset, heartburn galore, and are unable to keep our eyes open to see the game-winning play.

Guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way! There’s a way to enjoy football and tailgating without the “crash” of our blood sugar, ensuring we don’t miss a play… and lets us get up the next morning without brain fog and a food hangover.

A Ketogenic Game Changer

I’ve been eating leto-friendly (no carbs, lots of healthy fats!) for the past three years and cannot believe the difference it makes in my life. Any occasion, I  can take my favorite snack or appetizer and turn it into a keto-alternative fit enough to take to any party.

Imagine being at a football get together and by the end of the game you are still awake, full of energy, and without a stomach ache! You look around and see your family and friends with heavy eyes, hands holding their soupy bellies as if that will ease their suffering. Yes, instant replay is at our finger tips and you most likely will see the play of the week over and over again . . . but why not see it live?! Be the MVP of any party and bring a low carb snack that no one will even know is the healthier version.

Let’s take a few favorites and transform them. Here we go…

Five Healthy Versions of Unhealthy Tailgating Dishes


Buffalo Chicken Dip

Vegetable sticks with herb and tomato dip

Typical go-to for any party and super easy to make. My version is without the ranch dressing and believe me, once you make it you won’t miss it.

  • 8 oz full fat organic cream cheese
  • 2 cups free range chicken shredded
  • Frank’s red hot sauce
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded

Mix together the cream cheese, chicken, hot sauce and cheese into a glass baking dish. Some like it more spicy, so add your hot sauce to your liking.  Top the dish with about ½ cup extra shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly. Bring your favorite veggies as a dip, leaving the tortilla chips at the grocery store.

Ultimate Cauliflower Nachos

Keto-friendly nachos

Most everyone has heard by now that you can do pretty much anything with cauliflower. It’s the multi-purpose substitution while on a low carb diet.  So why not make nachos out of cauliflower? I have brought this to many parties and it’s always been a hit!

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp grass-fed butter
  • 2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded Colby cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. After rinsing and drying the cauliflower, cut it length-wise to make approx 1 inch thick, flat pieces.  Top with butter, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp garlic powder, and ¼ tsp cumin. Bake for 25 minutes. In the meantime brown the ground beef adding the cumin, salt, chili, onion, and garlic powder. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and top with the cooked, seasoned ground beef and shredded cheese. Place back into the oven for an additional ten minutes or until the cheese is melted. When you are ready to serve, layer with your favorite condiments including jalapeños, shredded lettuce, salsa, and guacamole. Top with fresh cut cilantro.

Cheese Crust Pizza

Keto-friendly Flatbread Pizza

I confess… I brought this to a snack party with the intention to see how many people ate it without asking what it was made of. It backfired. Everyone wanted to know why this pizza was so good and they couldn’t believe that I brought something that was actually healthy. Gotcha! Not only is it easy to do, there are just a few ingredients, making it simple to throw together and not miss a play.

  • 1 ½ cup mozzarella cheese shredded
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • Garlic powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • Fresh basil

Mix the above ingredients in a bowl well. Place on a pizza sheet or baking sheet at about ¾ inch thick.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is slightly browned. Top with a low carb pizza sauce or fresh tomatoes. Add uncured pepperoni, sausage, or any veggie to make this pizza your masterpiece. You can add a small amount of fresh buffalo mozzarella to the top as well as fresh basil.  Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the toppings are warm.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos

jalapeno popper ingredients

  • 10 jalapeños cut in half with seeds removed
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 10 slices of bacon, thin

Combine the cream cheese and cheddar cheese in a mixing bowl until well mixed. To make the “stuffing” of the jalapeño easier, you can place the mixture in a plastic bag and cut the edge to use as piping tool.  Place cheese in the halved jalapeño and wrap with the bacon strip. TIP: you can cook the bacon in the microwave for 2-3 minutes before wrapping to render some of the fat and make easier to cook. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 min. Place under the broiler for 3-5 min to crisp bacon.

Keto Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snicker Doodle Cookies

What reminds you of fall more than a SNICKERDOODLE cookie?! Here is an easy take on the all-time favorite. Don’t forget to bring this to any tailgate party so if there are no other sweets available you have a great alternative.

  • 1 ½ cups almond flour
  • ¼ cup grass fed butter, salted
  • ½ cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup granulated xylitol
  • 20 drops liquid stevia


  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp xylitol

Mix dry ingredients together well. In a separate bowl mix the butter, pumpkin purée, vanilla, and liquid stevia. Mix well until dough is created. Roll the dough into small balls and set onto cookie sheet. Press the balls of dough flat using fork. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Once cookies are done, top with the pumpkin pie spice and xylitol mixture.

Stay In The Game

To be successful at anything, it’s important to have a game plan. Teams don’t show up to the Super Bowl without having plays and tricks up their sleeves. They practice their plays and are ready for whatever the other team will throw at them.

Here are a few tips to get you game ready:

  • Bring a dish/appetizer – When invited to a tailgate or football party, always offer to bring a dish. This will ensure you to have something to eat if nothing else there is low carb. Come prepared!
  • Load up on healthy veggies – Bring a lot of veggies with your dips instead of chips or crackers. You can also make or bring healthy versions of crackers like “Flackers” which are low carb and great for your digestion.
  • Pre-game or come with a 50% belly – If you aren’t sure what will be at the party, eat before you go. That will make you less likely to pounce on the appetizer table like a starving wild animal stalking its prey.
  • Stay away from the alcohol – SORRY! When we eat low carb and consume healthy fats it slows our digestion which increases our satiety. Unfortunately, when we consume high carbohydrate alcoholic beverages it lowers our threshold to say no to that sugar-laden cupcake staring at us and often allows us to eat more than expected. Not only that, but it is proven that alcohol can throw us out of ketosis by inhibiting gluconeogenesis and how our body uses/produces energy from what we are eating. Dr Richard Feinman has a great article called “Alcohol Metabolism” that discusses how alcohol affects our metabolism and reduces our lypolysis (fat burning).  It’s easily compared to a kick-off return…. running 99 yards to only fumble the ball on the 1 yard line and the opposing team recovering the ball. NOOOO!!!!! All that work, the sweat, the tears, for nothing.
  • Stick with what’s safe – If faced with few options, it’s easy to take the unhealthy version and make it better. Burger and hot dog sans the bun, brat, Italian sausage on the grill are good options. Wings with a dry rub are a safe bet at most parties. Try to stay away from the high sugar sauces like BBQ, Catsup, and teriyaki. There are low sugar alternatives to sauces in many health stores but beware of any hidden sugar substitutes or bad oils.

The “End-Zone” Dance

Now that you have gotten through your first football party, you can pat yourself on the back and perform your favorite half-time routine or dance. Once you realize that you’ve easily kept your eye on the prize and that “fake” foods aren’t worth throwing you off track, you can literally tackle anything (because you still have the strength and energy to do so!).

Remember, food is fuel and tells our cells how to respond and act every day of our lives. If you are the quarterback preparing for the all star game, you wouldn’t feed your body Mac n cheese, cupcakes,  and French fries as a pre-game meal would you? I hope not! Avoid fumbling over your diet by using these keto tips at your next football party and you will always score big!

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