Game day for college football games are always lots of fun, but south Louisiana tailgates are usually not the healthiest events, so one LSU student wants people to know they have choices before they buy the sodas and hot dogs.
In a Mandeville kitchen, Chef Robert Vasquez sauteed marinated chicken breast with kale, fresh herbs and onions.
"We make our own dressings, so I'm going to add a little bit of Aioli," Vasquez said while cooking.
Besides the balsamic vinegar and apple cider, a little Louisiana honey goes in, too, before it all gets rolled up into a coconut wrap. It's a gourmet twist on tailgate food and one of the most popular items at LSU's newest concession stand.
"We are located right next to Mike the Tiger," said LSU junior pre-med student Monica Bravo.
The healthy stand is the brainchild of Bravo, who teamed up with the chef and his wife, Lindsey. All of them share a passion for the paleo diet and none are particularly fond of stadium food.
"I just didn't have an option when I would go to the LSU games or different events. There's just no healthy option. There was no gluten-free option, which was really important to me and I know is important to a lot of people," Bravo added.
The paleo diet is also known as the caveman diet because if a caveman didn't eat it, you can't either. It is simple. You consume only meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables. You stay away from dairy, grains and refined sugar. The idea is that processed foods confuse our bodies and eventually make us sick.
Vasquez is used to cooking paleo in his two restaurants, Vive and Opal Basil, but a menu for hungry football fans was more of a challenge.
"We started to open up a little bit more and be creative to be able to do the things that people would have an approach of trying it and realize that, 'Wow, this tastes good,'" Vasquez explained.
Barbecue pork lettuce wraps and crunchy kale chips also have folks cheering and all ingredients are homegrown.
"To be able to bring local ingredients from here in St. Tammany Parish, these farms and show it off to this big audience and say, 'Hey, buying local doesn't have to mean that it's dowdy or boring, it can be really good and really fun,'" Lindsey Vasquez said.
Bravo agrees, but also admitted eating right as a college student can be difficult. She documents her adventures on a successful blog, pulling in 60,000 new readers every month. She often invites other young women to share their own stories.
"I think it's just important to show other people it's possible to eat healthy while you're in school and it really should be a priority for you," Bravo stated.
It's a radical departure from the nachos and hot dogs and at least some of the 100,000 fans that pour into Tiger Stadium are glad to have the option.
Look for those healthy concessions at the last two home games. The stand is located between Mike's cage and the PMAC.
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