“Goooooo dawgs, sic ‘em, woof, woof, woof, woof!!”

Athens is a completely different town on game days. There are people everywhere ready to cheer on our Dawgs to victory–some who have been in the same tailgate spot for over 20 years and others who are visiting Athens for the first time. But the commonality between all these people is football and great food.

Everyone is eating out somewhere in Athens or sitting at a tailgate eating something cooked or brought from home. The types of foods you see most often at a tailgate are easy to eat and clean up, but they are also easy to share, meaning there is usually a large quantity of food available. This may include things like hotdogs and hamburgers, different kinds of dips, and grab-and-go desserts. There are also many popular restaurants to enjoy within walking distance of Sanford Stadium. Below we will explore what makes a safe, nutritious tailgate menu as well as share tried and true recipes.

You may be thinking, “what exactly makes a meal nutritious?”

According to choosemyplate.gov, a nutritious meal would be making half your plate a variety of fruits and vegetables, ¼ grains, and the last ¼ protein. We should all aim to make at least half of our grains whole grains and include 8oz of cooked seafood per week for omega 3 fats (those who don’t eat seafood may include plant based sources like chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts in their daily diet). Vegetarian options in the protein food group include beans and peas, soy products like edamame, tofu or tempeh, and nuts and seeds. For meat eaters, these choices should be lean or low fat. To find your specific needs based on age, sex, and physical activity, visit choosemyplate.gov.

Not always up to tailgating from scratch?

There are a ton of restaurants ready to serve on gamedays in Athens. If you choose to visit a restaurant or cater a tailgate, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Small changes add up! Swap brown rice for white rice, or choose whole grain bread over a refined white bread. These will increase your intake of fiber and promote satiety.
  • Replace fries or tater tots with a side of fruit salad, roasted vegetables, baked beans, or a baked potato.
  • Substitute fried proteins, like chicken or seafood, with grilled alternatives.
  • Consider choosing plant based protein sources for your main or side items, like black bean burgers, vegetarian chili, hummus, baked beans, or bean salads.  

Now for the tailgate recipes!

People often forget that keeping fruit in a small cooler is an easy option to add color to the tailgating table. Using foods like hummus or baba ghanoush as a dip or even adding simple snacks like ants on a log are a great way to keep healthy options on the table and incorporate heart healthy foods like legumes, fruits, and nuts into your tailgate. Check out the recipe archives for the UHC Nutrition Kitchen for lots of great ideas, including crockpot chilis, edamame hummus, and plenty of shareable desserts. Below are two recipes you can also try:

Citrus Marinated Shrimp Kabobs

Cook time: 15 minutes      Prep Time: 3 hours     Total Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes


  • 2-3 dozen shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Juice of one lime
  • Handful of Cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: cayenne pepper
  • Optional: melted butter


  1. Rinse the shrimp in cold water
  2. Mix all ingredients in a container
  3. Cover and let marinate for 3 hours
  4. Remove from fridge at least 20 minutes before cooking
  5. Start the grill
  6. Place the shrimp on skewers
  7. Cook the shrimp on the grill for 4-6 minutes on each side or until bright orange in color
  8. Optional: drizzle melted butter over the top and sprinkle cayenne pepper on top before serving

Recipe from Stephanie Studer of Life Created on instagram and facebook

Healthier {still yummy} Buffalo Chicken Dip

Prep Time: 10 minutes     Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 2.5 cups of finely shredded chicken breast
  • 1- 8oz package of light cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
  • ½ cup of hot sauce
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • ½ of plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup of chopped green onion
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8×8 baking dish
  2. In a large bowl shred the chicken with a fork
  3. Add in softened cream cheese, hot sauce, cheese, and greek yogurt. Stir until combined.
  4. Mix in green onion, onion powder, and garlic powder
  5. Pour into greased baking dish
  6. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until bubbly throughout
  7. Serve with tortilla chips or vegetables

Recipe from @erinliveswhole on instagram

In addition to nutrition and flavor, one of the most important things to remember for tailgating is food safety!

According to the USDA, leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Two hours is the maximum amount of time food should be left out of the fridge. If the temperature outside is above 90F, the food should not be left out for more than one hour. Make sure to keep hot foods at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cold foods at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Check out these tips for tailgate safety and don’t forget to pack these must-haves:

  • Insulated cooler with ice or frozen gel packs
  • A food thermometer for checking cooked foods for doneness
  • A grill and fuel to cook hot foods
  • Clean utensils for eating and serving
  • Fresh water for cleaning; if limited water is available, be sure to pack disposable towelettes, hand sanitizer, and paper towels.

Last, but certainly not least: hydration is crucial on gamedays.

Being outside on these long days, especially in this Georgia heat, requires more hydration to keep your body feeling ready to ‘attack the day.’ Keeping water, electrolyte drinks, or flavored/sparkling waters in your gameday cooler instead of or in addition to sugar sweetened beverages will help you stay hydrated all day long. A good rule of thumb to follow for hydration would be to consume 8- 8oz glasses of water in one day; eating plenty of fruits and veggies and limiting high sodium foods will also help you stay hydrated.

Happy tailgating and go dawgs!

Written by: Caroline Hubbard, dietetics practicum student at UHC Health Promotion