How to Work Off the Calories in Your Favorite Tailgating Foods

Registered Dietician

| 3 min read

Tailgating is a fun way to celebrate the football season – but sadly, it can really increase the calorie and fat intake in your diet.
Unfortunately, snacking and drinking while tailgating can really rack up your caloric intake, and you might be surprised how long it takes to burn calories compared to how quickly you can consume them:
  • Walking, on average, burns about four calories per minute. So if you walk for an hour, you will burn 240 calories, or the equivalent of two beers.
  • A half-hour jog burns about 350 calories, or the equivalent of about four chicken wings.
Please note, all of the calculations on this blog are for a person who weighs about 150 pounds. If you weigh more, you would burn calories a little bit faster and if you weigh less, you probably burn calories a little bit slower.
Just for fun, I came up with various activities that a person would have to do to burn off the calories contained in typical tailgating snacks:
  • A single tortilla chip topped with seven-layer dip = nine-and-a-half minutes of climbing the stairs in Michigan Stadium.
  • A single cracker with cheese spread = 13 minutes performing in a marching band (for example, a Ritz cracker has 16 calories and just a tablespoon of Kraft Cheez Whiz contains 45 calories, for a grand total of 61 calories in a single bite).
  • A “generous” helping of meat lasagna = running 89 football fields. You’re looking at a meal with pasta, mozzarella, creamy ricotta, sauce and meat. A large, nine-ounce portion has 500 to 700 calories. Just for more perspective, one mile = 17.6 football fields.
  • Two handfuls of potato chips = running 45 football fields. Each handful is about an ounce, so two handfuls of chips have about 300 calories. And if you add just two tablespoons of onion dip (60 calories), you’ll be running another nine football fields.
  • Two slices of pizza = doing “the wave” more than 1,100 times or climbing 6,000 steps. Think about it: The wave is like doing squats.
  • A cup of chili = 149 touchdown dances in the end zone. A cup of chili packed with beef, beans and veggies comes to about 350 calories. A dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheese adds 150 more calories.
  • One fried chicken drumstick = playing football for 13 minutes.
  • One light beer = climbing 1,200 stadium steps.
  • A 13-ounce bag of Doritos, which has 1,820 calories = cycling for two hours and 20 minutes. I hope you aren’t eating a whole bag by yourself, but again just to give you some perspective on how quickly it can add up.
  • A soft pretzel has about 480 calories. To burn off that pretzel’s calories, a 150-pound woman would need to ride a bike at a 10-mile-per-hour pace for 81 minutes!
With all of that being said, remember to practice balance when enjoying your pregame tailgate fare. Incorporate some healthy fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water. Don’t forget to move around and enjoy the day. Throw around a football or frisbee. Park the car farther away — not only is it cheaper, but you can get a nice walk in. Moving around will keep you warm, too.
What is your favorite snack to have during a tailgate? Do you have any healthier tailgate foods that you make? I would love to hear from you, and good luck to all of your favorite football teams this weekend.
Looking for some healthier recipes to try out at your next tailgate? Try these:
Photo Credit: SparkFun Electronics

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.