A Healthier Approach to Tailgate Food

One of my favorite things about football season, aside from the actual games of course, is the tailgate food. Typically I pile my plate with as many munchies as I can, not even coming close to thinking about how many calories I'm taking in or fat grams I'm consuming. Since I'm on this real health kick lately, and so far it's working out pretty well, I decided to bring in a friend who knows her stuff when it comes to living Healthfully Ever After. Blogger and registered dietitian nutritionist, Carlene Thomas RDN, LD, is guest posting today on First Impressions. Carlene shares some of her healthier game day recipes, that don't compromise on taste, but leave you feeling better about those tailgate must haves on game day.

Tailgating is the culinary and social peak of fall in many areas. In the South they bring out the team color game day dresses and corn-hole. In the Midwest the brews are chilling with fresh sausages. But wherever you're living, what could be better than a healthy tailgating recipe for a dip and a cocktail to kick off the season?

When Kristyn asked me to guest post on this topic, it was the perfect fit. SO many of my clients come to me unsure of how to 'survive' party and tailgate season. In fact, the Calorie Control Council estimates that the average football fan consumes an average of 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat from game day snacks alone, with an average weight gain of 10 pounds per football season. That's insane. And USDA reports people actually eat more on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. Thanksgiving included.

So let's take a look at some of those typical tailgate foods:
* Philly Cheesesteak: 1200 calories
* Wisconsin Beer Brats: 516 calories
* Chicken Wings: 220 calories (in 3 wings WITHOUT DIP!)
* Pigs in a Blanket: 410 calories ( for 5 pieces)

Yikes. While these numbers may surprise you, I never tell clients they 'can't' eat this kind of food. The only thing that does is lead to guilt, cravings and just more stupid rules. The bottom line is celebration food is all about quality and moderation. Does it really taste good? How much are you eating? What does the rest of the day look like nutrition wise? And of course, are there better options that would make you just as happy?

Today I'm sharing two easy swaps you can take to tailgating. The first is a lighter cocktail. By creating a spritzer with seltzer/club soda, you're keeping the carbonation you're used to with soda mixers, but for zero calories! The dip is a play on buffalo chicken dip. Because a typical dip like that contains ranch dressing, cream cheese, sour cream and a few types of shredded cheese, it got a major make over in a smart, high protein, low fat way. 

Apple Cider Spritzer

for each drink:
  • Add 1 shot of bourbon or whiskey
  • 4 ounces of apple cider
  • 4 ounces of seltzer water/club soda

Stir to combine or pre-mix a big batch of cider and liquor, and top with bubbles on site!

High Protein Buffalo "Chicken" Dip
  • 20 ounces soft tofu 
  • 1/2 hot sauce
  • 2 T ranch dressing powder
  • 3/4 C extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 
Drain tofu and break into crumbles with a fork. If you want your dip super smooth, throw it in a blender with the hot sauce, or swap soft tofu for 'silken' tofu. Mix in the hot sauce and ranch dressing powder. Divide the cheese in half and mix half into the tofu and top tofu in a baking dish with the remainder of the cheese. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes until bubbling. Finish in the broiler to get the top layer extra melty.


Carlene Thomas RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Northern Virginia. Her business, Healthfully Ever After LLC focuses on wedding wellness: helping brides be happier and healthier before and beyond saying "I do." She also spends her time in the communications world, food styling and testing recipes. Carlene is a frequent social media user and her blog of the same name (Healthfully Ever After) provides healthy recipes for readers. She has been featured in Southern Weddings, The Knot, Washingtonian, Virginia Bride, Buzz Feed Food, Style Me Pretty, Glitter Guide and more.

Keep up with Carlene via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

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Behind the Brand: Mill&mon Tailgate Trunks + GIVEAWAY

I absolutely love to feature new businesses on the blog that make wonderful impressions on me... I mean obviously impressions are important, it's in my blog title for goodness sake. I also love the opportunity to share my friend's businesses, whether they're starting out or been in the game for years. One such business was started and co-founded by my college friend and fellow sorority prezzy, Millie and her good friend, Monica.

Millie and Monica, hence the name mill&mon, met while in college at The University of Tennessee. Both members of the same sorority, they grew to be great friends and now, business partners. While a few years after college kept them apart, they eventually found their way back to the same city of Nashville, Tennessee. Both Millie and Monica had desired to start their own businesses someday and become entrepreneurs. That's when the ideas began to flow and they decided to feed off their love of football, cheering on the VOLS and hosting lavish tailgate parties. The perfect combination came together to create mill&mon Tailgate Trunks in early 2014.

The ladies behind the brand wanted "everyone to experience the same tailgating game days they did growing up and looked forward to each fall." Mill&mon's vision "is to take the party-throwing precision to a level of convenience and add a chic touch for football fans who value style - whether it's fans that want to dive into the tailgating scene and don't have the right know-how, or those seeking a more stylish, less-hassle means of hosting."

Everything you could possibly want/need for tailgating is taken care of with a mill&mon trunk. They offer three trunks to meet different tailgating needs. All of their boxes come with enough essentials to comfortably host twelve tailgaters. You can checkout all the trunks offered via their website, find out what is included in each box type and purchase the relevant trunk for the game of your choice. 

You can even take the trunks a step further and hire Millie and Monica to host your game day tailgate. Instead of spending your precious tailgating time decorating, let these ladies do it for you! Contact mill&mon via email to request your game day hostesses (requests must be made 6 weeks in advance).

Now some of you are probably thinking... "Kristyn, I don't go to The University of Tennessee and my team isn't the VOLS!!" Well have no fear! Mill&mon plan to dive into additional SEC schools by the end of the season. If you are just DYING for a tailgate trunk right now for your own school, contact mill&mon and they'll see what they can do! 

If football ain't yo thing, mill&mon can help with that too! These hostesses with the mostess plan to expand their business by the end of next summer (just in time for wedding season) to include Greek events, alumni associations, as well as corporate gatherings. Their mission is to aid the modern-day party thrower by providing convenient, fresh and fun party necessities in order to create unforgettable memories.

I just love the concept behind mill&mon and I know this brand will make just as good of an impression on you as it has me. To celebrate #footballweek on the blog, mill&mon have so graciously offered up TWO promotions!! The first? They're giving away ONE TAILGATE TRUNK to a lucky First Impressions reader!! They're also offering 20% off a trunk for first time customers only, with the code MILL&MON20.

Enter to win your own trunk below and visit mill&mon's website to purchase your trunk today!!
Happy tailgating friends and Go TEAM!!

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Game Day Fun, Even As An Alum

Football Saturdays spent in the student section are a privilege in the South. Growing up I couldn't wait to cheer on the VOLS from the second row of the student section, screaming along to Rocky Top as the team ran through the Power T. I went to almost every single home football game the four years I was a student, and only missed two games due to a wedding (like who does that) and traveling for Thanksgiving. I was always on time and never missed kickoff.
Saturdays in the student section were the best.

My last game as a student, it was Tennessee vs. Vandy. I remember sitting in the student section with my friends Liz and Dan, not wanting to leave. We stayed till the bitter end, Sang the Tennessee Waltz with the cheer squads (a Tennessee tradition) and sat in the stands till we were kicked out. I shed lots of tears and thought... life is officially over. Game days would no longer be the same, cheering from miles away in Washington, D.C. While I try to make it back for as many games as I can, I had to come to the realization that living eight hours away meant I would miss a lot more games than I ever had.

Let's just say, as an alum you can still have tailgate and game day fun. Since moving to D.C., I quickly learned that alumni groups are very prevalent. Almost every school has an alumni association that organizes events and game watch parties. The one thing I love about D.C. is that almost every school (at least in the SEC... which is all that matters anyway, ha!) has a host bar or restaurant. You will always find the games rolling at these places and game day food/drink specials.

Image Via
Image Via
If alumni watch parties and tailgates aren't your thing, host your own gathering. Now that Comcast offers the SEC Network, it's very easy to pop on the game, invite some friends over and make some game day munchies. 

For the dedicated alums, who travel back for every home game and to as many away games as possible, tailgating is still alive and well. You can skip the frat tailgates and house parties, and pop the trunk, bring the generator for the TV and bake as many apps and finger foods as your kitchen allows. Grab some game day decor, more on that tomorrow!!, and wear your team colors! There are even prizes in store for the best tailgates... like tickets to the SEC Championship (who doesn't want that?!).

As I have learned, just because you're an alum doesn't mean you can't have some game day fun! The opportunities to cheer on your team are endless. Once you get past the realization of leaving the student section for forever, you'll be good. I mean who really wants to sweat their tail off in the hot sun, or blow out their eardrums standing next to the band anyways?!

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Over the Weekend: It's Football Time!

I'm back! After taking the longest break from blogging since starting First Impressions back in January, I am back and excited for another FULL week of posts! Last week and Over the Weekend, I spent my days moving into a brand new apartment. I'm talking 300 more square feet, walk-in closet (hallelujah!), huge kitchen, and so long to the concrete floors and showering in the dark (last place had a corner, stand up shower, with zero light over it). I am more than thrilled with my new place and had so much fun decorating. Not this week, but next, you'll get lots of peaks into the new digs and boy do I have lots of stories and tips to share with you regarding moving. So many things I wish I had known, did differently and some tips that I am sooo glad people shared with me. All coming your way Labor Day week!!

Now on to the fun stuff. As many of you know, I am a HUGE football fan (go VOLS and Steelers!!)! Growing up in the South, football is more than a sport… it's a way of life (I'm sure that's quoted in a movie or two somewhere). It's no secret that fall is my favorite season and football plays a huge part in that. I've gotten a little bit of a fix with preseason NFL, but nothing compares to a Saturday game day in the South. So naturally I had to dedicate an ENTIRE WEEK to gearing up for football season. The first NCAA game kicks off this week, including the VOLS on Sunday (yes, Sunday), so all this week I'll bring you posts on tailgating as an alum, game day food that is healthier but doesn't compromise on taste, how to tailgate the right way with a tailgate trunk from Mill & Mon, and more! So stay tuned all this week as we gear up for FOOTBALL TIME (in Tennessee, or whomever you cheer for)!

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Over the Weekend, Celebrate Good Times!

Over the Weekend I celebrated another milestone… turning a year older. It's crazy to think that another year has gone by and I am one year away from being a quarter of a century old (trying not to think about it). There's so much I hope to accomplish this next year and I truly cannot wait to see what 24 brings. 

The weekend was full of surprises, celebrations, yelling "it's my birthday!" and spending time with good friends. The Lord truly blessed me with some AMAZING friendships and I cannot think Him enough for putting each and every one of them in my life. Friday morning I woke up to an apartment full of balloons, Happy Birthday signs, confetti everywhere and several of my favorite things waiting for me on the counter (Don't judge the Dales Sauce… if you've never tried it on a steak or chicken, you're missing out).

After reading all of my birthday cards, I headed out to Starbucks for my complimentary birthday coffee. When I arrived to work, there were beautiful flowers waiting on my desk from my boss (how sweet is she?!). Throughout the day I received countless birthday wishes, texts, calls and social media shoutouts. The biggest highlight of the day at work was receiving surprise cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake from my totally awesome mother!!! I thought the day couldn't get any better, but then several of my coworkers brought me candy and a card that had been signed by all my Hill friends! It was so sweet and I loved reading everyone's messages (especially the person that wished me a "Merry Christmas" haha?).

I headed home early, from an already amazing day at work to take the afternoon off and rest up for my big night out. My roommate Ashton and I plan surprise birthday events for each other every year. So it's not totally a surprise because we both know something is coming, we just don't know what. Ashton told me to be ready at 6:30 p.m., so I put on my "birthday outfit of the day" and we headed out for the Uber.

First surprise stop was drinks with Ashton, Liz and myself at The Gibson speakeasy. It was such a cool atmosphere and fun way to start off the night! After a yummy peach and sangria-esk Champers, we walked to the next surprise… dinner at Policy on U Street. I've been dying to try this restaurant out, and it was the perfect time too… it was restaurant week! We shared some delicious tapas, drinks and birthday dessert, and then headed out for the next stop of the night. I was told that we were picking up Ashton's boyfriend before going to our final stop. The cabby pulled up to The Brixton on U Street, we got out and went inside to meet up with him. When I walked in and opened the door to the rooftop, ALL of my friends were waiting and yelled "SURPRISE!!!" I was seriously BLOWN away and so SHOCKED!!!!! I had no idea what we were walking into and I couldn't believe that Ashton pulled off yet another big surprise this year!!!

I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with my friends, feeling like I was turning 21 with my birthday crown and feeling so blessed/loved by many!! Twenty-four is already off to a great year and I cannot WAIT to see what's in store. 


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Happy Birthday, 25 Before 25

"It's my birthday and I can party if I want too, party if I want too." Okay so maybe it's "cry," but no reason to shed any tears today!! While I am turning another year older, I am not saying sayonara to celebrating my birthday just yet. I've always been a huge lover of celebrating birthdays, whether it was my own or someone else's. So to celebrate the big day I decided to pull inspiration from one of my fav bloggers, The College Prepster. Carly did a 25 before 25 post a few years ago, and I really was inspired by her list to create my own. The list is basically 25 things I hope to complete or accomplish before turning 25 next year. I added a new toolbar to the left side of the blog <--, where you can keep up and follow my progress over the next 365 days. While no monetary benefit in the end is involved, the feeling of completing 25 new things in one year is rewarding enough!
Go checkout my list and let me know what you think!

P.S. how awesome are these throwback photos from my doily cloth wearing and swimming days??!!


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100th Post + Mint Julep Boutique Giveaway

As I am sure y'all already know, all this week I am celebrating the final days before turning the big 2 - 4. It is already an amazing week thus far, so it couldn't possibly get any better… or could it? Not only am I turning a year older, my blog is celebrating a milestone as well. Today is First Impressions' 100TH POST!!!!!! How crazy is that?! Countless hours and 100 posts later, this little ole blog has come a very long way. I mean this week is freaking fantastic, isn't it?!

I believe this calls for a huge celebration, so what better way to mark both occasions than by hosting a giveaway with one of my my fav online boutiques! I've paired up with The Mint Julep Boutique for today's brand new outfit post + GIVEAWAY (scroll all the way to the bottom to enter)!! In the words of Vicki from Real Housewives of the OC, WAHHOOO!!

I've been an avid shopper of The Mint Julep Boutique for years. One of the biggest highlights of this particular site is that they do an excellent job in offering inventory that is perfect for the twenty something. Whether you're in college or newly graduated, there's something for you. The options that Mint Julep offer are age appropriate for myself. Some sites these days are gearing their selections more to the youthful crowd. While I'm not trying to be grandma Jane over here with too conservative of clothing, I'm definitely not interested in see through dresses or scandalous backless tops. I really appreciate the fact Mint Julep has found the perfect combo of chic, yet more age appropriate pieces. The quality of their clothes, at the affordable prices, definitely works for any budget. Mint Julep also offers a plethora of game day attire, with plenty of options for any school color combo. I personally love this orange dress, perfect for a Big Orange Saturday.

P.S. How perfect would this dress be if I went to Ole Miss?! Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty! Or maybe even Arkansas! #SECalltheway

Maxi dress (c/o Mint Julep Boutique) / Necklace / Bangle / Classic Pave Link Bracelet
Photos by Liz Whitley

Like what you see from The Mint Julep? Thanks to their generosity, you can enter to win a $25 gift card!! Enter using the Rafflecopter system below. While you wait for the results, be sure to do some shopping ahead of time through Mint Julep's website, and checkout their Instagram and Twitter too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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**This post is a sponsored product review and giveaway hosted by The Mint Julep Boutique. Opinions are that of the writer. **


Over the Weekend, Sayonara Twenty-Three

Well my friends, the final countdown to twenty-four has begun. While the age of twenty-three doesn't have much of a significance (I can already enjoy special beverages and am still too young to rent a car), the past year has been chalk full of amazing moments, new ventures and countless new memories. Over the Weekend I reflected on the past year and all that twenty-three had to offer. As I look toward a brand new year ahead, I decided to recount some of the amazing moments of being 23. Below are a few highlights and photos from the past year.

Also, all this week I'll be celebrating the last few days I have left as a twenty-three year old. There will be lots of fun posts, a brand new outfit of the day, plus a GIVEAWAY!!! So celebrate with me all this week as I say sayonara to twenty-three!!

- Helped dedicate the new Alpha Delta of Sigma Kappa home -

- Witnessed the VOLS almost knock off the Dawgs... was in Neyland Stadium when the house finally felt like we were back to the glory Tennessee days! Man, there's nothing like 100K people, screaming their brains off and the stadium shaking! No place I'd rather be!!! -

- Visited America's largest home, The Biltmore Estate -

- Finally went to New York City to see the Christmas decorations -

- Started my blog First Impressions -

- Became a member of Southern Blog Society and met some new best friends -

- Met my blog idol, THE Courtney Kerr -

- Made it through Lent for the FIRST time, giving up Diet Coke for 40 days -

- My best college buddy moved to Washington, D.C. -

- Won my FIRST giveaway... $150 to J.Crew -

- Freaked out over my FIRST soccer match... USA should have won, just saying -

- Became a leg model... for a day -

- Went shark fishing!!! -

- Signed a new lease with a new roommate (moving in 9 days!!) -

- Celebrated two promotions at work -

Twenty-three truly has treated me well! I know that the next year is going to be even better; chalked full of amazing new memories and fun times!

Don't forget to stay tuned all week and celebrate with me as I turn another year older!! You'll DEFINITELY not want to miss tomorrow's post! An all NEW giveaway is coming your way.


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