Alliance for Potato Research & Education
November 3, 2015 by Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD, LD

A Fresh Take on Fall Tailgating

The kick is up and it's…GOOD! Football season is in full swing, and sports fans across America are cheering for their favorite teams. Whether gathered in front of TVs or huddled in stadium parking lots, fans will proudly be sporting their team colors. And win or lose, there will be lots of food to celebrate!

Game On

While we may not be suiting up for on-field action, we can borrow a page from the athletes' nutrition playbook about the importance of eating a properly balanced diet that's full of essential nutrients.

Potatoes are not only a favorite of fans on the sidelines, they are also ideal fuel for athletes on the field. Their combination of carbohydrates, potassium, and B vitamins makes potatoes a great choice for both pre- and post-game meals by providing energy during the game and replenishing muscle glycogen stores and electrolytes after the game. In fact, a recent study affirmed the power of potatoes. Athletes who ate hash browned or French fried potatoes as part of a fast food meal recovered just as well as those who ate a meal of sports supplements and beverages (1).

Potatoes are packed with potassium, a key nutrient that is lost in sweat during exercise. Potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure (2), an important benefit given that an estimated 2 out of 3 American adults suffers from hypertension or pre-hypertension. Most adults should consume 4,700 mg/day of potassium, but 98% are missing the mark. Since potatoes are one of the highest food sources of this essential nutrient, they should be a staple part of the dining table for football players, weekend warriors, and everyday fans, starting with breakfast.

Rise and Shine for an Early Kickoff

A hearty breakfast is important every day, especially on game day. Fresh or frozen hash browned potatoes are the perfect vegetable to accompany any breakfast. For tailgating, you can prepare the hash browned potatoes the day before the game and pack them in disposable foil pouches that can be easily warmed up on the grill. Next, sauté chopped green onions, chopped red peppers, and diced pre-cooked maple sausage links in a hot skillet for five to eight minutes. Pour in protein-rich eggs or egg substitute, stir, and cook until eggs are done. Serve immediately or cover with foil to keep warm. Or try a new spin on the breakfast casserole with this overnight egg, spinach, and hash brown breakfast strata. And in the spirit of the fall season, serve up some pumpkin walnut muffins with a cup of spiced coffee or tea. Score!

Elevate Your Grilling Game

If you are firing up the grill for your tailgating party, consider serving lower-fat sausages, turkey hot dogs, or 93% lean beef burgers. Smothered with caramelized onions and peppers, no one will notice the swap. Make sure to serve salt and vinegar roasted potatoes for a savory accompaniment to the main fare.

And what would a tailgate party be without a simmering crock of spicy chili? Instead of serving it with chips or nachos, impress your fellow sports fans with a nutrition-packed baked potato bar and let them top away! At about 25 cents/serving, potatoes are the perfect budget-friendly choice to boost your guests' vegetable intake. One baked potato with skin provides more than 900 mg of potassium and 3.5 g of fiber. That's as much potassium as two bananas! Potatoes are also chock-full of complex carbohydrates that will fuel die-hard fans until the last play of the game. Offer a variety of nutritious toppings like diced ham, shredded chicken, low-fat cheese, black beans, guacamole, salsa, tabbouleh, chickpeas, and this spicy yogurt horseradish dip for an extra hit of protein and calcium. Your guests will have plenty of choices with this potato-palooza bar!

So power up your next football party or backyard game with potatoes and you'll score on great taste and nutrition—a win-win for all. Game on!


(1) Cramer MJ, Dumke CL, Hailes WS, Cuddy JS, Ruby BC. Post-Exercise Glycogen Recovery and Exercise Performance Is Not Significantly Different between Fast Food and Sport Supplements. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015 Mar 26. [Epub ahead of print]

(2) Binia A, Jaeger J, Hu Y, Singh A, Zimmermann D. Daily Potassium Intake and Sodium-to-Potassium Ratio in the Reduction of Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Hypertens. 2015 Aug;33(8):1509-1520. DOI: