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Healthy Tailgate Snacks For a Guilt-Free Game Day!

By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

healthy tailgate snacks

With several sports seasons in full swing, you might be curious about which healthy tailgate snacks you should offer to friends and family.

The good news is you can still enjoy the tailgate experience without overloading on chips, dips, hot dogs, and wings.

You just need to know what foods to choose and which to avoid!

That's why we've laid out 25 great healthy tailgate snacks you can serve at home or on the road, as well as some things you should always try to avoid.

Keep reading for our favorite healthy tailgate snacks that are sure to score with all your friends and family!

Looking for healthy snacks for kids? Try these delicious and nutritious ideas!

Healthy Tailgate Snacks to Choose

Consider choosing some of the following healthy tailgate foods this sports season when spending time with the ones you love!

Popcorn

Popcorn is loaded with fiber and is considered a whole grain.

It makes the perfect tailgating food for a variety of reasons, and your friends and family will enjoy munching on it before and during sports games.

But avoid certain types of popcorn, such as caramel corn and popcorn that's overly loaded with butter, artificial flavors, or excess salt.

Air-popped is best flavored with a little bit of salt, herbs, or other favorite seasonings!

Veggie Platters

Many adults and children don't eat as many vegetables as their bodies need to maintain exceptional health.

Prepare your own veggie tray or choose a store-bought veggie tray for your next healthy tailgate snack.

Add cherry tomatoes, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, cucumbers, or mushrooms to your platter and serve them with hummus or oil-based salad dressing without added sugar.

You might also string fresh-cut vegetables on kabobs as a healthy tailgate snack this sports season!

Another excellent option is ants on a log.

You can prepare this nutritious snack by topping celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins for the kids.

Fruit Plates or Kabobs

Cutting up fresh fruit, or making simple fruit kabobs on skewers, is another refreshing option for healthy tailgate snacks.

Cut up fresh melon, grapes, pineapple, peaches, kiwi fruit, apples, pears, watermelon, or other fresh fruits.

Coat them in lemon juice if needed to prevent browning before packing them in your favorite airtight tailgating containers.

Dip fresh fruit in peanut butter, Greek yogurt, or almond butter as your next nutritious pregame snack!

Cubed Cheeses

You can't go wrong when bringing a cheese tray as a healthy tailgate snack this sports season.

Choose a variety of sliced, cubed, or string cheeses and bring toothpicks to scoop up the cheese with.

Mix in whole-grain crackers or sliced veggies if you'd like!

Grilled Chicken or Shrimp Kabobs

Rather than grilling hot dogs or brats, which are are traditional tailgating foods but both highly processed, grill chicken or shrimp kabobs instead!

You can thread fresh veggies on your kabobs before throwing chicken or shrimp on the grill.

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Capri Salad Kabobs

Another simple, yet healthy tailgate snack is Capri salad kabobs you can easily take with you to pregame tailgating parties.

You'll need grape or cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, basil leaves, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar plus skewers.

Simply string the mozzarella balls, tomatoes, and basil leaves on skewers according to your recipe instructions and drizzle them with, or dip them in, a mixture of oil and vinegar!

Turkey Chili

Whip up a batch of your favorite fall turkey chili and bring it in a crockpot to your next tailgate or pregame party this sports season.

Ingredients include lean ground turkey (you can also choose shredded chicken) plus tomato juice or sauce, veggies, beans, and all of your favorite chili seasonings!

Turkey chili is loaded with protein, fiber, and a variety of other heart-healthy nutrients and makes the perfect addition to tailgating festivities.

Black Bean or Turkey Burgers

Black bean and turkey burgers, or lean organic beef burgers, are more nutritious than traditional, fatty burger patties.

Choose very lean beef or ground turkey, black bean burgers, or other veggie burgers on the grill this sports season.

Pick whole-grain buns or skip the bun altogether in favor of lettuce-wrapped burgers!

Nuts or Seeds

Nuts and seeds make the perfect healthy tailgate snack because they're loaded with protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Nuts and seeds boost satiety without posing a risk of unwanted weight gain.

Avoid nuts or seeds coated in sugar, however.

Choose dry roasted nuts or seeds or unsalted nuts if you're watching your sodium intake.

Mix nuts with whole-grain cereals, pretzels, or roasted chickpeas if you'd like!

Roasted Chick Peas

Chickpeas are also nutrient-dense and one of the healthiest healthy tailgate snacks available.

These peas are packed with protein, fiber, and micronutrients and they boost satiety.

Simply roast chickpeas in olive oil, salt, pepper, or other seasonings according to roasted chickpea recipe instructions.

Afterward, let them cool and bring them to your next pregame event!

Turkey Meatballs

Rather than traditional meatballs in sauce containing added sugar for a tailgate snack, make your own homemade turkey meatball recipe instead!

Ingredients include very lean ground turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, onions, parsley, salt, pepper, and oregano.

Or, mix and match your favorite nutritious ingredients to create your own version of healthy pre-game turkey meatballs!

Avocado Bean Dip

Consider a simple, nutritious, avocado bean dip recipe as a healthy tailgate snack your friends and family will love, as it's loaded with flavor.

Ingredients include cannellini beans, avocados, cilantro leaves, lime juice, onion powder, salt, cumin, hot pepper sauce, and garlic powder.

Combine the ingredients according to your recipe instructions and serve them with fresh veggies, pretzels, or whole-grain chips and enjoy!

Flavorful Edamame

Edamame is simple to make, yet it's loaded with fiber, high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Boil edamame to cook it until tender (about 4-5 minutes), drain it, and toss with salt, ginger, garlic powder, or any other favorite seasonings.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuna Artichoke Salad

This mouth-watering, healthy tailgate snack of tuna artichoke salad is loaded with nutrients and flavor, and it's easy to make.

Ingredients include artichoke hearts, dill, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, spinach, black pepper, red bell peppers, and canned light tuna (drained).

Combine the ingredients according to your recipe instructions and serve the tuna mixture over whole-grain bread, whole-grain crackers, or inside of large, fresh tomatoes with the insides removed!

Beet Garlic Hummus

Spice up traditional hummus by choosing a colorful beat and garlic hummus recipe as your next healthy tailgate snack!

Ingredients include beets, garlic, olive oil, chickpeas, salt, pepper, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, Greek yogurt, and dill or parsley.

Prepare the ingredients according to your recipe instructions and serve the mixture with fresh vegetables or whole-grain pita chips!

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Marinated Tomatoes

Serve up fresh, sliced, marinated tomatoes to add extra flavor to a nutritious tailgate snack!

In addition to fresh, thick-sliced tomatoes, other ingredients in marinated tomato recipes include olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, cloves, onions, fresh parsley, and minced or dried basil.

Combine all of the ingredients and marinate tomatoes in the mixture in your refrigerator until chilled.

Serve and enjoy them at your next tailgate party!

Avocado Corn Salsa

While traditional salsa is also an excellent choice as a healthy tailgate snack, wow friends and family with this flavorful avocado corn salsa recipe!

Ingredients in it include corn, avocados, peaches, sweet red peppers, red onions, olive oil, white wine vinegar, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno peppers, and a variety of seasonings.

Combine the ingredients together based on your recipe instructions, serve, and enjoy this snack by itself or served with whole-grain chips!

Yummy Asparagus Salad

Instead of traditional tailgate snack foods, try a healthier asparagus salad instead!

It's simple to make and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Common ingredients in asparagus salad recipes include asparagus, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, tarragon, garlic, and Dijon mustard.

Simply combine together and cook the ingredients according to your recipe instructions, serve, and enjoy!

Banana Cream Freeze

If you're looking for an alternative to ice cream as a healthy tailgate snack, consider a banana cream freeze recipe instead!

Ingredients in this refreshing snack include bananas, almond milk, shredded coconut, peanut butter, walnuts, raisins, and vanilla extract.

The recipe tastes a lot like ice cream, but you can eat it guilt-free and your kids will adore it!

Shredded Pork Tostadas

Pass on the hot dogs, brats, and sloppy joes in favor of this savory pork tostadas recipe.

Ingredients include chicken broth, cumin, salt, pepper, boneless pork roast, onion, cloves, limes, and tostada shells (optional).

Nutritious toppings you might choose include lettuce, avocados, cilantro, lime wedges, salsa, and traditional or refried beans.

Homemade Protein Bars

Choose low-sugar, prepackaged protein bars or make nutritious homemade protein bars to bring with you as a healthy tailgate snack food for loved ones!

Your friends and family will rave about them and protein bars help keep you full for hours.

Mason Jar Greek Yogurt with Fruit

If you have small mason jars, fill them with plain Greek yogurt topped with fruit (plus nuts or cinnamon if you'd like) as a refreshing tailgate snack.

This tailgate food idea is as nutritious as it is delicious!

Matcha or Coffee Protein Shakes

Protein shakes make the perfect healthy tailgate snack, especially if you choose meal replacements to better control calories during periods of weight loss.

Shakes also help build muscle, burn fat, and lower your risk of overeating at mealtime.

Simply mix together almond milk or water with protein powder plus matcha powder or coffee!

Dill Pickles

Dill pickles don't contain the added sugar found in sweet pickles and make the perfect addition to healthy tailgate snacks.

You can make your own homemade dill pickles using home-grown cucumbers if you'd like, but store-bought dill pickles often taste just as delicious!

Instant Pot Shredded Chicken

Pass on the hot dogs, brats, and hamburgers by choosing shredded chicken as your next healthy tailgate snack!

Ingredients include skinless chicken, garlic salt, paprika, onion powder, black pepper, or any other favorite seasonings.

Simply prepare all ingredients in your slow cooker according to the recipe instructions.

Serve shredded chicken with whole-grain buns or lettuce wraps if you'd like and enjoy!

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Tailgating Foods to Avoid

There are some common tailgate foods, drinks, and condiments to steer clear whenever possible to stay healthy. Examples include:

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks

  • Soda
  • Lemonade
  • Sweet tea
  • Sugar-sweetened sport drinks
  • Sugar-sweetened energy drinks
  • Other sugar-sweetened beverages

Highly Processed Meats

  • Ham
  • Sausage
  • Salami
  • Deli meats
  • Hot dogs
  • Brats
  • High-fat hamburgers
  • Regular bacon
  • Traditional meatballs

Refined Grains

  • White bread
  • White tortillas
  • White hamburger buns
  • Other refined grains

Sugar-Sweetened Condiments

  • Ketchup
  • Barbeque sauce
  • Honey mustard
  • Many salad dressings
  • Other sugar-sweetened sauces
  • Relish
  • Sweet pickles

Fried Foods

  • Fried chicken
  • Fried onion rings
  • Fried cheese curds
  • Fried shrimp
  • Fried fish
  • Other fried foods

Other Tailgate Snacks to Avoid

  • Doughnuts
  • Other baked goods
  • Regular potato chips
  • Candy
  • Traditional ice cream
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Regular pizza
  • Meatballs in sauce containing added sugar
  • Sugar-sweetened beef, pork, or chicken

Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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