March Madness is one of your favorite excuses to reunite and party with your college buddies, right? But cheering on your alma mater can cost you, because—regardless of which team wins—you lose if the numbers keep creeping up on the scale. No one is saying you have to eat celery and carrots during the big game, but you can definitely lighten the load without feeling deprived by making these simple substitutions. So here, nine satisfying snacks that still taste good with beer, yet come without the massive dose of fat.(For more ways to keep the madness on the court and out of the kitchen, check out The Miracle Carb Diet.)
Baked Boneless Buffalo Strips
Buffalo wings are not only fried, but they also still have the skin on—making them double trouble in terms of fat and calories. (One order can pack nearly 1700 calories and 50 grams of fat, and that’s before the blue cheese dressing!) But it’s easy to lighten the load by swapping your chicken wings for boneless chicken breast strips and baking them in the oven, rather than frying them. (For a great tasting buffalo sauce made without all that butter, mix together hot pepper sauce, corn starch, white vinegar, and cayenne pepper.) Serve six srips up with low-fat Ranch instead of full-fat blue cheese—and your snack comes in at under than 300 calories and less than 10 grams of fat.10 Healthy Tailgating Snack Ideas>>>
Homemade Garlic and Herb Hummus
You've got to have chips and dip while you're watching the game. But instead of buying a jar of French onion or queso, pick up some hummus instead— the chickpeas used to make it are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, which will fill you up faster. Even better, you can slash the sodium by making your own hummus using this easy recipe. Serve it up with whole-wheat tortilla chips (to watch portion control, stick to 12 per serving) or some toasted whole-grain pita bread.
7 Layered Dip
Dialing for delivery? Hold up. A six-inch meatball marinara sub can do a lot of damage, containing upwards of 750 calories, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 50mg of cholesterol. Save yourself by making your own batch of meatballs using lean ground turkey and tomato sauce; then, for easy eating, simply skewer each on a toothpick or between mini hamburger buns. (Swapping turkey for beef or pork, by the way, will slash 500 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat per 10 balls.)
A cup of traditional 7-layer dip with full-fat sour cream and cheese, refried beans, ground beef, and guacamole weighs in at about 700 calories and 80 grams of fat. Yikes. So cut that almost in half by making your dip using these swaps: reduced-fat sour cream mixed with Greek yogurt for the sour cream; Laughing Cow cheese for the cream cheese; black beans for refried beans; and homemade guacamole for the store-bought kind. Pile lots of salsa, freshly chopped lettuce, vegetables, and 1/3 cup of reduced-fat shredded cheddar on top, instead simply slathering it in a seventh layer of heavy cheese.
Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Salty fried snacks are easy to mindlessly munch on during the game, so replace them with Edamame (soy beans), which are rich in protein, low in fat, and a natural source of vitamins and antioxidants. Buy them frozen, and drop them in boiling water a few minutes before game time. Drain, then spice them up by tossing them in a skillet with a mix of salt, chili powder, and red pepper flakes.
Spicy Creole Shrimp Skewers
An order of french fries can contain nearly 500 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 5 grams of saturated fat—but you can make two simple swaps to get your fry fix without the fryers. Try using Vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes, and then bake them instead frying. Simply drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss in the oven until crispy. (Try our Healthy Recipe for Sweet Potato Fries.)
Forget the fried popcorn shrimp. To pack in some lean protein, make some shrimp skewers, which are surprisingly simple to prepare. Just cook the shrimp in a skillet with non-stick cooking spray, Tobasco sauce, white wine and freshly chopped parsley, then place them on skewers for serving. See how easy that is? In just under 7 minutes, you've made yourself a completely fat-free snack. Congratulations.
Do you want something small to much on? A good trail mix can serve as a more satisfying—and nutritionally dense—alternative to greasy potato chips. Make your own with 2 tablespoons of almonds, 1-3 cups of lightly buttered popcorn, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit, and maybe even a sprinkle of chocolate chips—if you like something that’s sweet and salty. A handful has fewer calories than just nine chips, and you're also getting healthy omega-3 fatty acids and filling fiber.