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Healthy March Madness

Healthy March MadnessIt’s that exciting time of year when college basketball rules! On most any given day you’re likely to find yourself surrounded by friends and family gathered about the television yelling support for local teams, all the while munching for hours on end. Most of the food we eat during this time, however, is worthy of an offensive foul – it’s typically very high in salt, sugar, calories and saturated fat. There are better ways to celebrate while watching hoops.

When you serve foods from my Final Four below to the fans at your home, you’ll be helping everyone enjoy the games in a delicious and healthy way. Don’t be surprised if some of the high fives are for you!

Healthy Table Snacks
Table Snacks
Put out a big bowl of air-popped popcorn sprinkled with some seasoning (maybe cinnamon or tamari), pita chips with hummus, or bowls of fresh or dried fruit and unsalted nuts. Chicken strips with BBQ dipping sauce is always a popular finger food, and if it’s cold outside, a little fresh lentil and squash stew will warm everyone up in a tasty way.

Healthy Main Course Main Course
If you’re making or ordering pizza, choose whole grain crust and add some healthy veggies as a topping. Offer your guests a healthy twist on the fan favorite – burgers – this year by serving salmon or veggie burgers with all the fixings on a whole grain bun. Add a leafy green salad and some baked sweet potato fries as sides. Another fan favorite is pasta – tortellini primavera, or a simple pasta dish made with extra virgin olive oil or marinara sauce and fresh veggies will satisfy your guests’ appetite (if not their appetite for a win!).

Healthy Drinks 
Avoid empty calories and the high sugar loads associated with sodas and fruit juices – instead serve your guests clean, fresh water and flavored seltzers (you can make your own by adding a little fresh fruit juice to plain seltzer).

Smoothies are not just a taste treat but can serve as a delicious (and healthy) dessert item. Mix dark berries in a blender with a banana and soy milk, maybe even a small teaspoon of peanut butter, and you’ve got a taste treat that’s sure to please.

If alcoholic beverages are on your menu for this year’s party, please watch your guests to be sure they’re not over-indulging. Plan ahead and have designated drivers available who can drive people home if they’ve let the Madness get to them a little too much.

It never hurts to have chocolate around, and all the better if you choose dark chocolate (it provides health benefits that milk chocolate doesn’t). Choose products containing at least 70% cocoa, and leave small squares out for guests to nibble on.

Recipes for many of the foods mentioned above are available on the Harris Teeter web site, and you can order pre-made trays from Harris Teeter to keep things easy on your self.

Have fun this March Madness – I hope your team wins!

Be well.
Dr. Russ