THE BLOG
09/17/2014 03:59 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

7 Tailgating Tips So You Don't Get Sidelined This Season

Are you ready for some football? I know I am. I love football. My blood runs red and black (i.e., I'm a die-hard University of Georgia fan for the uninitiated). I grew up watching football and was even the stereotypical captain of the cheerleaders my senior year of high school (though I never dated the quarterback)!

Growing up in the South, tailgates are serious business and just as important as the game, whether you are at the game or at home with family and friends. The typical tailgating fare isn't always the healthiest of choices, and fruits and vegetables are generally an afterthought, if included at all. Food safety often goes out the window as well while food lingers on the buffet table for hours on end. This is a recipe for disaster. Championship tailgates can include foods that are nourishing and delicious at the same time.

Here are seven tailgating tips to ensure your next tailgate is championship material:

  1. Make a game plan. Planning out your food in advance ensures you will have a good strategy for including healthy foods. Head over to Healthy Aperture and do a search for "football" or "tailgating" for some healthfully delicious ideas.
  2. Elevate your buffet game by including fruits and vegetables. Score extra points by focusing on those in your team colors. Firing up the grill? Veggie and fruit kabobs are natural stars.
  3. Avoid safety penalties at your tailgate. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that meat is cooked to the proper temperature. Hot food should be kept hot and cold food should be kept cold.
  4. Don't go into overtime with your food. Once food has been sitting out for two hours or more it needs to be tossed. If the outside temperature is above 90 degrees, food should be thrown out after an hour to avoid foodborne illness.
  5. Keep the game plan simple. Finger foods are a hit with children and adults alike.
  6. Stay hydrated. Alcohol is generally a starting player for most people, though be sure to round out your choices with lots of non-alcoholic ones too. Spike water or seltzer water with frozen fruits for a flavor boost (remember those extra points from #2 above).
  7. Take a time out and step away from the buffet table to get in some physical activity. Whether it is tossing a football, playing corn hole or some other activity, it is a great time for everyone to sneak in some fun exercise.

Tailgating is a sport, just like the game itself, especially if you ever have the privilege of attending a tailgate or game in the South. Focusing on team colors with your fruits and vegetables to liven up your fare and being mindful of food safety will keep you in full spirit for the season ahead.