School Spirit is in the Air – Go Cyclones!

CyCookingForBlogThis weekend the Iowa State University Cyclones have a football game against the Baylor Bears. We’re underdogs going into this one, but the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team is hoping for a Cyclone victory!

I like to go to tailgates and have people over for football games, but sometimes the food served at football celebrations is pretty unhealthy. I challenged myself to remake a couple of typical football snacks the Spend Smart. Eat Smart way. My recipes are fun, festive and ready for the football game!

I started by thinking about the veggie trays at tailgates. Someone always brings one but often they don’t get eaten. I think this is usually because they are kind of boring and everyone really wants the sweet and salty snacks instead. Not to mention, these often come pre-made from the grocery store and cost way more than a veggie tray made at home. I made mine festive with peppers in Cyclone colors and instead of the usual ranch veggie dip, I made Garbanzo Bean Dip. It is a tasty and inexpensive alternative to the old standby. If you like hummus, you’ll love this dip!

dip and cereal treatsDesserts are always a favorite at tailgates. I usually see lots of brownies, cookies and bars. Sometimes for early games there are even cinnamon rolls! I wanted to have a sweet treat that was a little healthier so I chose to make Whole Grain Cereal Treats. These are very similar to the rice cereal treats we all know and love, but with the added health benefit of whole grain. I even added some red sprinkles to show Cyclone pride!

Next time you’re going to a football get-together, think about putting a healthier spin on the dish you take. Game time food can be healthy and inexpensive while still being lots of fun!

s Signature-1

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

More Posts

Tailgating … as American as Apple Pie

Tailgating is as American as apple pie, but unless you want some time on the sidelines, take care when planning a party in a parking lot. Last year I tail gatecringed a few times as I observed food sitting out 3-4 hours before a football game started and then the same food was brought out again after the game for snacking!

Here are a few tips on what to serve and how to keep your next tailgate safe…

What to Serve

The safest foods are prepackaged such as sandwiches or cookies, or other  items in food-grade plastic bags or film wrap. This minimizes the number of people who handle the food. Dry foods or those high in sugar are also usually safe. These might include breads, rolls, cakes (without cream filling), fresh fruits and vegetables, cookies, and crackers.

Be cautious with high-protein foods like meat, milk, lunch meat, hot dogs, vegetables, and salads. Dishes with potatoes or rice, custards, puddings, cream pies, gravies, and stuffing are safer served at home.

Here’s a sample menu with recipes from our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. collection:

Cooler Tips

  • Foods cooked ahead of time need to be cooked far enough in advance that they have time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator before you leave home.
  • Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40°F.
  • Pack food from the refrigerator right into the cooler.
  • Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing perishable food won’t be constantly opened and closed.
  • Keep the cooler in the air-conditioned car on the way to the game and then in the shade and don’t open the lid too often.
  • If you bring hot, take-out food, fried chicken or barbecued beef, pizza, or burgers, eat it within two hours of purchase.

Keep it Clean

Washing hands is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of disease-causing bacteria. Port-a-pots and eating are a bad combination.

  • Hands should be washed with soap after using the restroom and water before handling food.
  • A hand washing site can be set up at any tailgate party by placing water in a beverage container.
  • If you have electricity you could heat water in a coffee pot or put a pan with water on the grill to heat.
  • Be sure to bring soap and paper towels.


Serving Grilled Food

Serve hot, grilled foods immediately. Do not partially grill extra hamburgers to use later. Once you begin cooking hamburgers by any method, cook them until completely done to assure that bacteria are destroyed. Ground meat should be cooked to 160°F so using a thermometer is important. Put cooked food on clean plates and don’t reuse plates that were used to hold raw meat or poultry.

If some of your guests will come later, leave their portions in the cooler until they arrive and then grill them. Perishable foods should be eaten within two hours, or one hour if the outside temperature is above 90°F. Remember to keep cold foods cold (below 40°F) and hot foods hot (over 140°F).


Plan realistically so you don’t have lots of leftovers.

  • Place leftover foods in the cooler soon after grilling or serving.
  • Any food left outside for more than 2 hours (or one hour if the temperature if over 90°F) should be discarded.
  • If there is still ice in the cooler when you get home, the leftovers are okay to eat.

What are you planning to serve at your next tailgate? How will you transport food to the game?

Join Our Mailing List

Enter your email address:


Recent Posts

Posts from the Past