November is for football rivalries. Friends become frenemies. Pranks among coworkers increase. Peaceful neighbors turn into the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Whether your team is undefeated or perpetual underdog, multi-year Super Bowl champs, or D-1 darlings, tailgating before the Big Game is a fall tradition for many American families and groups of friends.

But tailgating in midlife is a little different from your college days. Here’s how to survive a day of fun and football, hot flashes and all.

Eat right and hydrate

Pizza, wings, nachos, cheese dip, little football-shaped cookies: all are delicious tailgating foods. All are loaded with calories.

While tailgating can be a fun way to indulge (and we would never food shame you), it’s not ideal if you’re worried about weight gain in menopause. 

Tailgating doesn’t have to throw you off track: try some of these healthy game day alternatives to your favorite dishes. 

Spicy foods can trigger hot flashes, so be careful with chili, jalapeno poppers, or buffalo wings.

Drinking enough water becomes extra important in and after menopause because declining estrogen levels lead to decreases in overall body moisture. If you’re losing a lot of fluid through sweat during hot flashes, you need to be even more vigilant about your water intake. 

And yes, while you can get away with a soda or two at the game, two-thirds of the fluids you drink each day should be good ol’ H2O. [Learn more about staying hydrated in midlife.]

Grill smarter

Grilled, barbequed, or smoked beef, pork, lamb, or chicken may increase your risk of breast cancer (and other cancers) and impact survival after breast cancer, especially if you prefer your meat well-done. 

Those coveted char marks on your burger are filled with compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which form when muscle protein is cooked at high temperatures. The longer your meat cooks, the more HCAs you ingest.

Animal fat dripping onto the coals or grill turns into carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which coat everything you’re cooking along with the meat and get into your lungs when you inhale the smoke.

If it won’t be a tailgate party without firing up the barbie, you can at least grill a little smarter with these suggestions from Providence Health and Cedars Sinai Medical Center:

  • Load up on veggies: plants don’t have muscles, so you don’t need to worry about HCAs. Throw some corn on the grill, make colorful vegetable kebabs, or try grilled fruit for a sweet and healthy dessert.
  • Pick lean proteins: the less fat drips onto the hot grill, the less toxic PAH is emitted. Fish, shrimp, scallops, skinless chicken breast, and lean beef are tasty options.
  • Try a meat substitute: veggie burgers and sausages are no longer the rubbery logs you choked down in your college vegetarian phase. The Beyond Burger and brats might even fool the most hardened carnivore. If you’re not into meat analogs, you can’t go wrong with the classic portobello mushroom on a bun.
  • Avoid processed meats: trying to decide between a hamburger or a hot dog? Would it help to know that hot dogs, sausages, and other processed meats are included as group 1 carcinogens? 
  • That’s a wrap: wrapping your meat or veggies in foil on the grill keeps vegetables free from PAH and prevents fat in your meat from dripping on the grill to create PAH in the first place.
  • Let it marinate: marinades can break down some of the protein and create a barrier between the meat and the heat, both of which reduce HCAs.
  • Go gas and flip often: gas grills give you better temperature control than coal. Grill meats over lower temperatures and flip them often to prevent charring.
  • Make it medium-rare: the longer meat is on the grill, the more HCAs you consume. Cook meats just long enough to raise the internal temperature to a safe level.

And always practice basic grill safety.

Alcohol

Beer and tailgating are almost synonymous but perimenopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal women have a few reasons to limit drinking alcoholic beverages. 

Alcohol can make hot flashes worse, and regular consumption may increase your risk of breast cancer: alcohol is another element listen in the group 1 carcinogens list.

If you do need a little something to get into the gameday spirit, stick to one serving of alcohol.

Just maybe not a glass of pinot noir: red wine has a chemical that’s been known to trigger hot flashes.

Bonus: you’ll actually remember that game-winning Hail Mary pass.

Bring folding chairs

Changes in menopause can lead to all sorts of aches and pains, including in your feet.

In college, you could squat on a 30-pack of beer all afternoon, but present-day... You deserve better than a Bud Light throne.

Bring enough folding chairs to sit in comfort when your dogs start barking. You might even find your favorite team’s colors in a home shop or online.

Hot flashes

Temperatures are dropping, but your body has other plans. 

  • Ice, ice baby: keep an ice pack in the cooler, away from any meat, and you’ll be ready to apply when a hot flash strikes. 
  • Sip cold water. Ice water chills you from the inside out. A frozen water bottle can do triple duty by keeping drinks cold, cooling your flushed skin, and melting for icy hydration.
  • Wear layers: it’s cold in the parking lot, but when a hot flash hits, you want to be ready to shed layers. Go for natural, breathable fabrics that don’t trap heatyour lucky jersey might not be the best choice. Bring a spare t-shirt or jersey in case a hot flash leaves you cold and dripping in sweat. You might not be able to bring much into a stadium these days, but having a change of clothes in the car won’t hurt.
  • Bring a folding fan. You’ll stay easy breezy and, if you coordinate the colors just right, become a literal fan of your team. 

Have a bathroom plan

30-40% of women experience midlife incontinence. Even if you aren’t currently experiencing urgency or leaks, when you gotta go, you gotta go: holding your urine stresses your bladder and can lead to future incontinence. Don’t wait to pee!

Put together a bathroom plan ahead of time so you know where your closest bathroom is located, both in the stadium and outside, even if it’s just a parking lot port-a-potty.

Wear sunscreen

Vitamin D from the sun keeps your bones (among other body parts) healthy in midlife, but you probably aren’t going to absorb much if you’re bundled up against the November chill.

You can, however, get a sunburn on any exposed parts, even if it’s a cloudy day. Wear sunscreen on your face and any other skin that isn’t covered. Choose a sunscreen that’s free of parabens and other potentially estrogen-disrupting chemicals.

Don’t forget your clear stadium bag!

This one isn’t specific to menopause: all NFL and many college stadiums have limitations on what you can bring in to the stadium. We just don’t want you to forget: where else are you going to keep your folding fan?


What have you learned about tailgating in midlife? Share your thoughts with the community in our community forums, or on our Facebook page.