Potluck and Tailgate Tips from the Dietitian

For many, the end of summer signifies the start of Football season. This means getting together with friends for potlucks or tailgating before the game to eat delicious food and cheer for The Green Bay Packers  your favorite sports team.

We don’t usually think of “healthy” when we think of our favorite potluck or tailgating foods (burgers, brats, creamy or cheesy dip and chips), but that doesn’t mean you can’t lighten up some of your game day favorites to bring a healthier twist to those traditional favorites. 

This definitely doesn’t mean pack a salad and miss out all the good food. We’ve gathered a few tips on enjoying a healthier gameday potluck or tailgate:

Check out the entire selection of foods before you load up your plate.

Often times, we jump in the food line with the “little bit of everything” approach, which leaves our plate overflowing with delicious food, maybe even going back later to grab second helpings of the foods we really liked. Instead, walk through the line and scope out which foods are available and choose a couple favorites.

A potluck is a great time to enjoy those “sometimes” foods, and you should always allow yourself to enjoy those foods once in a while. Choose mostly healthy sides (fresh fruit, vegetable tray, baked chips, salsa), and choose small portions of those “sometimes” foods you don’t eat very often. 

Bring your own healthy recipe/side and swap out ingredients in your favorite recipes. 

Simple Swaps: 

Use your favorite sauces on chicken drumsticks instead of wings. You’ll get a more satisfying meal with less fat. 

Chicken brats instead of traditional brats for less calories and fat.

Substitute some or all of the mayo in potato salad with Greek yogurt for less fat and more protein.

Use ground chicken breast in sloppy Joe’s instead of beef.

Salsa or guacamole have less fat and pack a big nutrient punch along with flavor over a queso chip dip

Use whole wheat noodles in your pasta salads and add extra vegetables for added nutrients and fiber.

This recipe for North Caroline Barbeque is traditionally made with pork, but can be lightened up using this easy recipe for pulled chicken breast, which is great on sandwiches (with a whole wheat bun, side of baked beans, coleslaw, and roasted corn). 

Easy Crock Pot North Carolina Chicken Barbecue Recipe

For the Crock Pot Pulled Chicken:

Adapted from TheKitchn’s recipe for BBQ Shredded Chicken


  • 4-5 large  boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~2 lbs.)
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp pepper


Place chicken breasts in crock pot, add spices and cover with chicken broth. Set crock pot on low for 5-6 hours or cook on high for 3-4 hours, until chicken pulls apart and comes to internal temperature of at least 165.

When chicken is cooked, let cool and shred with 2 forks OR beat whole chicken breasts using kitchen stand mixer with paddle attachment. 

Now that you have shredded chicken, you can add a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, like this one from AllRecipes.com:



  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper



Combine the white vinegar, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. The recipe recommends mixing ingredients ahead of time to allow the flavors to blend. 

This recipe makes more than enough to cover the chicken, so make sure to store the extra sauce in a covered container in your refrigerator. 


What are your favorite game day eats?

Any traditional recipes you have transformed over the years to be a little healthier?