NFL season is just around the corner. While the sport itself is exciting enough for many people, others take advantage of Football Sunday to throw a good tailgate. When planning for these pre-game festivities, oral health and overall wellness should be taken into consideration. Prioritizing these factors does not mean sacrificing good food and fun, however. Being aware of the effects of food, alcohol and hydration will help you to plan an NFL tailgate that is enjoyable and even beneficial to the health of you, your family, friends and staff.
Eating is arguably the best part of tailgating. If you know how certain ingredients affect you, you can put together a menu that is both tasty and healthy. It’s no secret that sugar is not good for your teeth. This is due to the acid created by bacteria that feeds on sugar. Acid can cause tooth decay by weakening the enamel, which can result in cavities. So, while it is easy enough to avoid bringing sweets to a tailgate, it’s also important to look out for acidic food. This can be more difficult. Chips and dip are a typical tailgate party snack. While this may seem like a relatively healthy snack choice, many dips contain acidic ingredients. Enjoy salsa in moderation, since one of the main ingredients is tomato. Or opt for non or low-acidic dips like bean dip or hummus. Guacamole is another popular alternative if it doesn’t contain lemon or lime juice. Instead of chips, cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, help in removing debris and lowering pH, as they are more alkaline. Replace chips with veggies and dip like hummus or even cheese (in moderation) for a good alternative.
Grilling is a common way to serve food at a tailgate and almost always involves meat. Meat is acidic but unless your guest list consists of all vegetarians, it can be hard to avoid. You can limit the acid intake from your wings or sliders by serving the sauce on the side. This allows people to control how much they consume or eliminate it altogether. Try to avoid sauces with acidic ingredients, like tomato in ketchup or vinegar in buffalo sauce. In addition to benefiting dental health, avoiding acidic food will benefit those who suffer from acid reflux.
Be careful when eating sharp foods like chips, chicken wings and other foods that can wear away at your teeth and gums. Foods like these can cause damage and create painful cuts and sores in your mouth. Also, be careful with sharp objects when removing food from your teeth. Toothpicks may seem like a safe way to get rid of stuck food particles, but they can actually damage tooth enamel and cut your gums. Instead, keep dental floss or a toothbrush handy. It’s also important to rinse your mouth with water after meals, especially tap water that contains fluoride. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, helping to avoid tooth decay.
It is common to enjoy a few alcoholic beverages on game day. If you plan to indulge, consider how beer, wine and liquor affect your oral health before deciding on your drink of choice.
Alcohol is highly acidic. While Bloody Marys and mimosas are popular game day cocktails, they are not the best choice when it comes to your oral health as they combine alcohol with other acidic juices. When drinking liquor, avoid sugary and acidic mixers such as juice or pop. This can be tricky. It may seem smart to switch to wine since it doesn’t usually require a mixer—but wine is still acidic, especially the sweeter options. Also, red wine can be a nightmare when it comes to staining your teeth. Beer is the least acidic option of the three. The lighter the beer the better, as dark brews can still stain your teeth.
As with all alcoholic beverages, moderation is key. When all else fails, drink your beverages through a straw to decrease contact with your teeth. Also, rinse your mouth with water throughout the day.
While rinsing your mouth with water after eating and drinking is helpful, it is important to actually drink the water, too. Staying hydrated is important to your oral and overall health for many reasons. Drinking water:
- washes away residue left over from any food or drinks consumed throughout the day
- keeps your saliva flowing, which prevents dry mouth—a condition that can result in tooth decay and other issues
- helps your body break down food in order to absorb nutrients and digest your food properly
- provides you with ample energy to get through the day
Throwing an NFL tailgate is a fun way to add to the excitement of football season. By serving healthy food and drinks and staying hydrated, you and your fellow tailgaters in the office can have fun while maintaining your oral health and overall wellness.