The Energy Chef: Tailgate Favorites, Made Healthy

Who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned tailgate party? There's football, there's friends and of course, food. Typical football party foods can be super-high in fat and calories, but my lighter burgers and potato salad have all the classic flavor, without the guilt.

Who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned tailgate party? There's football, there's friends and of course, food. Typical football party foods can be super-high in fat and calories, but my lighter burgers and potato salad have all the classic flavor, without the guilt.

The Nutrition Score: Classic Burgers and Potato Salad

Burgers and potato salad can both rack up a high calorie toll. One cup of a typical potato salad sets you back 358 calories and a whopping 20 grams of fat.   The ever-popular slider burger might look small, but the calories can add up there as well -- restaurant versions can have around 1,000 calories for three.

Liquid Calories

What you drink counts, too. Remember this as you reach for your third beer: Every 120 calories of wine, beer or spirits you take in equals 20 minutes of cardio to burn it off the next day.

The Healthy Makeover: Potato Salad

My grilled purple potato salad has just 165 calories and 4 grams of fat. I like to use an unsweetened, low-sodium eggless mayo in my salad. Believe me, you won't taste the difference, and you'll get 65 percent fewer calories versus regular mayo.  Can't find it? Any light mayo will work.

Herb's Purple Potato Salad

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds purple potatoes
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped and one yolk discarded
3 tablespoons low fat (or eggless) mayo
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt & pepper to taste


Wash potatoes, slice into small wedges and boil for about 30 minutes or until you can easily pierce with a fork.  Preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Toss potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill potatoes 2-3 minutes on each side, until you see grill marks.  Let potatoes cool and place in a large bowl. Add chopped eggs, mayo, chives and paprika and toss until potatoes are evenly coated.

Tailgate Tip: Cook the potatoes and eggs the night before game day.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 160
Total Fat: 4.5 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Total Carbohydrate: 25 grams
Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 230 milligrams
Cholesterol: 40 milligrams
Fiber: 3 grams
The Makeover: Better Burgers

Now for the burgers! I like to be doing something at all times (they don't call me The Energy Chef for nothing), so I love working the grill at the tailgate. My favorite slider has about half the calories of typical burgers, and I top it off with caramelized onions and grilled peppers and mushrooms.  Trust me: The flavors work like magic in your mouth!

Slider Burger with Grilled Mushroom and Peppers, Caramelized Onions and Sriracha Mayo

Yield: 16 sliders

For burgers and grilled toppings:
32 ounces 85% lean ground turkey (to make 2 oz. patties)
1/2 pound sweet peppers, sliced
1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 large purple onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
16 mini whole-wheat pita breads

For sauce:
6 tablespoons light (or eggless) mayo
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce


Preheat grill. In a small pan placed on the grill, place onions and cook for 20 minutes.  If you need to add liquid, pour in a little light beer from your can so the onions don't burn. Set aside.

Brush mushrooms and peppers with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Over medium heat, grill mushrooms 2 minutes per side and peppers 7-8 minutes per side. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix mayo with sriracha. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Form into 16, 2-ounce patties. Grill patties 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

Slice pita pockets in half and warm over grill before serving (about 2 minutes.). Spread the mayo/sriracha onto the pitas and layer burger, mushrooms, onions and peppers on top.

Tailgate Tip: Slice onion, peppers and mushrooms and form the patties at home for easy game-day prep.

Nutrition Info Per Burger:
Calories: 230
Total Fat: 12 grams
Saturated Fat: 2.5 gram
Total Carbohydrate: 18 grams
Protein: 15 grams
Sodium:  240 milligrams
Cholesterol: 45 milligrams
Fiber: 3 grams

Here's to football season -- with my lighter recipes, you can have yourself a beer (or two) and not sweat it.

Next Food Network Star season 6 finalist Herb Mesa is a restaurant-trained chef, a self-taught healthy cuisine chef and a certified personal trainer. Herb teaches ‘balance through food and fitness’, and works as a personal chef and trainer in Atlanta.

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