Healthy Tailgate Recipes for Fall

By Coach Kati Epps – September 1, 2021
Courtesy of Cotroneo Photography

Tailgating is an American tradition. The events create an exciting atmosphere that paves the way for the upcoming sporting event. Of course, these pre-game events are not just about the sport — they also bring people together. Friends meet new friends, families reunite and together they all cheer under the banners of their teams.

Competitions with elaborate food displays, tricked-out vehicles with screens and sound systems and costumes with team colors or mascots all add to the electric atmosphere. It builds an environment that fans travel to participate in and share for generations.

“Come early, stay late,” they say. And we always do!

The joy and experience is partly — probably largely — in the sharing of food and drink. From ancient tribes to current day, humans love to break bread and share with one another. The clinking of glasses is a distinct signal of goodwill and celebration, and tailgate staples have distinct flavors that add to the excitement and memories of the past.

With all of this celebration, it may feel intimidating or even overwhelming if the tastes of the past no longer meet the current clean-eating goals. Luckily, these five recipes will keep you in the moment of the celebration without skipping out on those fan-favorite flavors.

May this year’s tailgates keep you healthy, fit, in line with your goals and in a loving community! Cheers and GO TEAM!

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Coach Kati Epps

Yield: 16 meatballs

Love those game-day buffalo wings? Breaded, deep fried then tossed in a buttery hot sauce? Well, Buffalo Chicken Meatballs are a great, clean alternative. They carry all of the flavor without the fat and added calories. Add some carrots, celery and a bit of blue cheese dressing, and it is heaven! Put a small, wooden appetizer fork to make it a clean finger food.


1 lb. ground chicken

¾ cup panko or breadcrumbs

1 egg

2 cloves garlic, pressed

¼ cup grated sweet onion, liquid drained (about ½ onion)

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

1/3 cup buffalo sauce, plus more for serving

Salt/pepper to taste

2 tbsp chives, chopped

½ cup blue cheese or ranch dressing

Celery and carrots for serving

  1. Heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Grate onion and press into a kitchen towel or paper towel. Squeeze until all juice is drained from the onion.
  3. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, panko/breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, grated onion, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and buffalo sauce. 
  4. Use a cookie scoop or roll into golf ball size. Arrange on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with oil.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160 F.
  6. Remove from the oven and toss in a bowl with more buffalo sauce. 
  7. Place on a plate. Drizzle with blue cheese and sprinkle with chives. 
  8. Serve immediately with carrots and celery sticks.

Longhorn Punch

Mixologist Joel Lackovich, owner of Rock Sound Rum

Yield: One cocktail

What is a tailgate without a cocktail? Rock Sound Rum’s Original Light Rum is a gluten-free, zero carb, no sugars alcohol! Grab a flavored sparkling water or a diet soda for a completely clean cocktail. But for Austinites and Longhorn fans, the Longhorn Punch brings in sweet and tangy flavors, plus the added vitamin C from the fruit juices!


1.5 oz rum (Rock Sound Original Light Rum)

0.75 oz triple sec

2.0 oz grapefruit juice

2.0 oz orange juice

2.0 oz cranberry juice

0.25 oz agave nectar

Splash of lemon juice

Garnish: tiki umbrella

Garnish: Longhorn Lemon Peel

  1. Add all ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker.
  2. Shake cocktail shaker vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  3. Double strain into a cocktail glass filled with crushed ice.
  4. Garnish with tiki umbrella and a lemon peel in the shape of a Longhorn

Hearty Game Day Salad

Coach Kati Epps

Yield: Approximately 6 servings

One of the things missing at many tailgates is some greens. There are always meats and breads, but rarely anything green — unless your team colors are green, then maybe you do green beer. Having a Hearty Game Day Salad drizzled with bright lemon dressing brings in great flavors that are satisfying on all fronts! It’s a great option for getting in plant-based proteins, as well as filling up with excellent fiber


2 cups chopped kale

2 cups broccoli slaw

½ cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup quinoa, cooked (makes about 1 cup) and cooled

2 tbsp dried cherries or craisins

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup crumbled feta

For dressing:

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, pressed

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp agave nectar

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together. 
  2. In a large bowl, fold all ingredients and dressing together until well combined.


Tequila Marinated Beef Skewers 

Chef Tiffany Blackmon 

Yield: Approximately 24 skewers

Maybe you’re at the tailgate for the beef. But instead of smoked brisket, what if you could enjoy perfectly grilled and portioned tequila beef skewers? The fresh lime, cilantro, salty soy and an incredible tequila marinade all work together to create this stunning flavor profile that can’t miss. Plus, since it is served on a skewer, it is easy to eat and share with friends.


1 beef tenderloin (about 1-1/2 pounds)

24 bamboo skewers

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup fresh orange juice 

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup shallots, chopped 

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup olive oil

½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup silver tequila

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper 

  1. Slice beef diagonally across the grain into 1/4-inch slices. Thread each slice onto a bamboo skewer. Place in a shallow pan. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine lime juice and remaining ingredients. Pour evenly over beef skewers. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours, turning occasionally.  
  3. Preheat gas or charcoal grill to 400 F.  
  4. Remove skewers and discard marinade. Place skewers on grates and cook approximately 3-5 minutes per side.  

Fabulous Gluten-Free Brownies 

Chef Tiffany Blackmon

Yield: Approximately 12 squares

Lastly, no party is complete until dessert is served. Gluten-free, healthy fats and deliciousness are all found in this recipe. A sweet treat that meets all of the criteria for baked perfection, keeping dietary needs in mind, while still satisfying the palate — simply fabulous.


2/3 cup almond flour 

1/3 cup brown rice flour 

1 cup bitter-sweet chocolate chips 

6 tablespoons, butter

½ teaspoon salt 

¾ cup granulated sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

2 whole eggs 

1 cup pecans, chopped 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8×8-inch metal baking pan along the bottom and sides with parchment paper.  
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together almond flour and rice flour. Set aside.  
  3. Place chocolate, butter and salt in the top of a large double boiler over simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool. Stir in the vanilla and sugar. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture, mixing until thoroughly combined. Stir in pecans.  
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack. Lift the edges of parchment paper to remove brownies, and remove parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.  


About the Author

Coach Kati Epps is the founder of MyBody GX with a background in chemistry from Colorado State University, an ACE certified personal trainer, health coach and nutrition specialist.


Related Articles