Ditch the Carbs in Your Tailgate Food for College Gameday

4 minute read • by Michelle Dudash 10-18-2021

College football season is upon us!🏈🌭 A lot of football food favorites set the stage for carb and calorie overload. However, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your low-carb diet just to have a good time. Turning your favorite recipes into low-carb dishes can be done with just a little planning. These are some of the favorite menu items in my gameday playbook. 

Low-Carb Buffalo Chicken Dip

Many Buffalo dip recipes may be spiked with added sugar—unnecessary! When you make Buffalo dip with ingredients like cream cheese, plain Greek yogurt, straight hot pepper sauce, and cheese, glorious cheese, you get to enjoy a quarter cup of dip for just 2 grams carbs per serving. As for the dippers, get that satisfying crunch from celery sticks, sliced radishes, and halved mini sweet peppers. Also, pair this creamy, cheesy dip with satisfying HighKey Almond Flour Crackers. Score. 🙌

Low-Carb Pizza

It’s the pizza crust, my friends, that racks up the carbs. So what’s a super fan to do? Swap it out with a cauliflower-based pizza crust, which are now sold nationally in your freezer section. I’ve also made almond flour pizza crust—delish. All of those cheeses, meats, and most vegetables are low-carb. Go light on the pizza sauce or opt for a white sauce to keep your carb counts lower. Drained fresh salsa is another flavorful replacement.

Low-Carb Buffalo Wings

Chicken in of itself is a perfectly low-carb food. It’s the sauces that can lead you astray, like teriyaki, barbecue, honey mustard, and really, anything that tastes sweet, which are crazy-high in added sugars. Traditional Buffalo wing sauces are low-carb, with only 2 grams carbs per small portion-cup serving. To go totally carb-free, simply use hot pepper sauce. Most dry rubs on wings are very low-carb. 

Instead of breaded boneless wings, now you can get “naked” boneless wings from popular wing joints.

Low-Carb Chili in the Slow Cooker

Slow cooker chili is the perfect crowd-pleasing main dish to feed the tailgating fans, especially during the unpredictable fall weather. Start simmering chili earlier in the day, or even the day before. It tastes even better after it has sat in the fridge overnight. The ingredients to look out for if you’re watching your carbs are beans, macaroni, and heavy amounts of tomatoes and onions. The good news is you can cut all of those from the recipe, but leave in some tomato and onion, and the results are still absolutely delicious. Offer low-carb toppers like avocado, cheese, lime wedges, and scallions. Yum. 😋🍲

Low-Carb Dip, Baby, Dip

Dips based with cheese, mayo, and sour cream clock in low in carbs, like bleu cheese dressing, ranch, and French onion dip, with 2-4 grams carbs per quarter cup serving. Here again, it’s the sweet, glossy sauces, like barbecue sauce that are loaded in sugar. Avoid fat-free dressings, which are code for added sugar.

Guacamole is a perfect low-carb dip, providing healthy fats and just 4 grams carbs per quarter cup when made with spices and herbs but no tomatoes or onions. Serve with thin slices or spears of jicama, it’s a must-have on gameday! 🥑

Pulled Pork

Another satisfying low-carb football food recipe for the slow cooker is pulled pork served with either Romaine or Butter lettuce leaves instead of carb laden buns. Rub a pork shoulder down with a seasoning mix or your own blend of spices, herbs, salt, and pepper. Pour in a big splash of chicken broth, and hours later, you’ll have tender, juicy, shredded pork. You can brown it on all sides first to add another layer of carb-free flavor.

Meat and Cheese Tray

I always serve a big meat and cheese tray at parties, because they are such a hit with kids and adults alike. For my cheese board, I include meats like prosciutto, summer sausage, ham, and pepperoni, and easy-to-grab cheeses like cubed aged cheddar and sliced aged gouda.


When I arrive at a tailgate party or gameday watch party, the first thing I’ll grab is an adult beverage—I’m not gonna’ lie. I’ll almost always go for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, which has no added sugar and 4 grams carbs. 

Low-Carb Cookies

You’ll want to serve at least one type of munchie sweet treat, right? One tasty option is HighKey Mini Cookies Chocolate Chip. They contain no added sugar, with a six-cookie serving coming in at just 1 gram of net carbs per serving. They even contain 3 grams protein. 🍪💙

Final Words

Enjoy yourself! After you’ve noshed on your share of low-carb gameday foods, situate yourself away from the buffet line to avoid mindless eating. Instead, focus on the game and the company of your friends. And don’t forget to stay hydrated with water especially on those balmy fall game days.


Michelle Dudash, RDN

Michelle Dudash is a registered dietitian nutritionist, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, revised & expanded. Subscribe to her monthly clean eating newsletter with free recipes and healthy eating tips at michelledudash.com.

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