Yes, you can eat well at the stadium


October 26, 2018

We share 4 tips for staying on track with your nutrition this football season.


It may be fall in the rest of the country, but here in the South, we call this time of year football season. And let’s be honest, football is our favorite season! However, there’s just one teensy problem. All that stadium dining can wreak havoc on your waistline. What’s a true fan to do? Because we all know that skipping the game is not an option.

Whether you’re cheering on the Titans or the Commodores this weekend, here are four ways you can stay on track with your nutrition.


1. Say no to traditional stadium fare.

Let’s face it: Traditional stadium food isn’t all that healthy. Here’s our list of the worst offenders:

  • Hot dogs smothered in chili or cheese
  • Loaded nachos
  • Pizza
  • Funnel cake
  • Candy (especially king-size)

“Not only do most of these have basically no nutritional value,” said Stacey Kendrick, MS, a health educator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, “but they also are high in calories and saturated fat.”


2. Go for healthier options instead.

Stadiums have begun offering healthier selections. For example, Vanderbilt Stadium sells a grilled chicken wrap. And at Titans games at Nissan Stadium, you can get a portabella mushroom burger. (Each of them has about half the calories of a traditional burger.)

“Aim for items that have some nutritional value when you can,” Kendrick said. “A few good choices, if you can find them, are low-fat frozen yogurt, a small bag of nuts or a soft pretzel with mustard.”


3. Drink water.

“Those giant-sized sodas packed with sugar are another offender we see a lot at football games,” Kendrick said. “The best drink option is water.” And if you’re going to drink beer, stick with light beer. Want a caffeine kick? Get your tea unsweetened.”


4. Tailgate healthy.

It’s not a real Saturday in the South without a tailgate. And, Kendrick said, “one way to avoid all the temptations at the stadium is to plan your own pregame tailgate with healthy food and drink choices.”

We suggest you try her recipe for healthier Buffalo “wings.” With a fraction of the fat, calories and sodium of traditional wings, these spicy Buffalo chicken tenders are reason enough to throw a party.


Buffalo Chicken Tenders with Blue Cheese Dip

Makes: 8 servings (2 “wings,” 1/2 cup vegetables and 2 tablespoons dip each)

Total Time: 30 minutes



Spicy Blue Cheese Dip

2/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Wings and Vegetables

3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
3 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Texas Pete, divided
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided
2 pounds chicken tenders
6 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
6 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 cups carrot sticks
2 cups celery sticks


  1. To prepare dip: Whisk sour cream, blue cheese, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. To prepare wings: Whisk buttermilk, 2 tablespoons hot sauce and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a large bowl until combined. Add chicken; toss to coat. Transfer to the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
    Meanwhile, whisk flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish. Whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon hot sauce and 1 tablespoon vinegar in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and roll in the flour mixture until evenly coated. (Discard remaining marinade and flour mixture.) Lightly sprinkle both sides of the chicken with cayenne.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken, placing each piece in a little oil. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and chicken, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Transfer to the platter. Drizzle the chicken with the reserved hot sauce mixture. Serve with carrots, celery and Spicy Blue Cheese Dip.

Nutrition per serving: Calories: 256. Fat: 10 grams. Saturated fat: 4 grams. Cholesterol: 83 milligrams. Carbohydrates: 12 grams. Protein: 31 grams. Fiber: 2 grams. Sodium: 353 milligrams. Potassium: 248 milligrams.


Stacey Kendrick, MS, is a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She spent much of her career at Vanderbilt’s Faculty/Staff Wellness Program and currently works in Strategic Marketing at Vanderbilt. She is mother to two adult daughters. In her free time, she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires.

Don’t worry, we have even more tasty tailgating recipes for you to try here.