When you live in North Carolina, ACC basketball is a hallowed tradition, and March Madness brings a new meaning to spring fever. There’s nothing quite like cheering on your favorite team, and often, there’s a high-calorie count involved. Snacking in front of the TV can easily derail your diet plans. Remember the dreaded “Freshman 15”? Freshman 15 is a reference to the trend that incoming college freshman gain roughly 15 pounds if they aren’t mindful of their diet. Unhealthy snacks, emotional eating (particularly during those nail-biting OT games) and a comfortable couch can cause a personal foul when it comes to overindulgence . . . and can trigger a “Freshman 15” relapse.
First, a quick time out: We’re not saying you should eliminate all snacking during the game—March Madness is a great NC tradition no matter which shade of blue (or red) is your favorite. But some healthy alternatives to fried chicken wings and pizza can keep you on track.
Here are some general principles to keep in mind when preparing finger food for the big game:
- Try baked, not fried: This can cut down on calories when preparing wings, cheese sticks and other favorites.
- Crunchy alternatives: Use carrots and low-fat pretzels instead of potato chips.
- Use skim or reduced fat products when possible: This is particularly important if the recipe calls for cream cheese. Skip on the mayonnaise if possible. Even using cheese that is partially made from skim milk can make a difference.
- Serving size matters: Use “mini” hot dogs or corn dogs if you indulge in higher calorie snacks.
Following are some great recipes from the Food Network that you may want to consider to keep you in the “zone:”
Why not try Greek yogurt to put a new twist on the classic onion dip? By using pretzels instead of chips (and skipping the mayonnaise), you can keep the calorie count reasonable. You can find the recipe here.
Can’t do without the mozzarella sticks? Try baking them instead of frying them and using cheese that is made with skim milk.
Corn, avocado, and tomatoes are the stars of this five-layer Mexican Dip () that is complemented by baked chips or pita bread.
Or how about this chicken with spicy peanut dipping sauce?
Of course, basketball isn’t just for the college stars. Here’s one more health tip for the ACC season—why not hit the court and try some free throws of your own? Basketball is a great form of exercise that helps you get in shape, no matter the color of your favorite jersey.