March Madness doesn’t have to mean losing control over eating

    healthy snacks for March Madness
    Alternatives such as pretzels in place of high-fat chips, mini instead of full-size meatballs and the use of non-fat Greek yogurt in dips can help you be a champion of healthy snacking during March Madness.

    New Year’s resolutions made in January to eat healthy don’t have to be sabotaged during March Madness, said Whitney Cessna, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N, diabetes educator at University of Louisville Physicians-Pediatric Endocrinology. With a little information on how to practice good habits for snacking, you can be a champion at healthy eating.

    “I recommend the practice of what we call ‘mindful eating,’” said Cessna, who provides services with the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center managed jointly by UofL and Norton Children’s Hospital. “Whether it’s the craziness of the ballgame itself or the stress of hosting a watch party, overeating can easily happen, and you should be mindful of that.”

    Here are a few simple guidelines Cessna recommends to practice mindful eating during March Madness:

    • Listen to your body and stop eating when you are full. It takes about 20 minutes for the satiation signal to reach the brain, which is why we often overeat unconsciously.
    • When your stomach is growling or if you feel like your energy is low…eat. Don’t ignore the signals your body gives you or you could overeat later.
    • Eat with others at the same time to help prevent wandering around and eating at random times and places.
    • When it’s time to eat, just eat. Try not to be on your cell phone or engaging in other activities. This can cause overconsumption.
    • As much as possible, eat foods that are healthy and full of nutrients.
    • Try baking, not frying when preparing cheese sticks, wings or other game-time favorites to cut down on calories.
    • Serving size matters; serve mini corn dogs, mini meatballs or hamburger sliders when indulging in higher carb/fat foods.
    • Seek out crunchy alternatives; instead of potato chips, try carrots, celery or low-fat pretzels.
    • Use skim or reduced fat products when possible when making recipes with cream cheese or shredded cheese. Avoid regular mayo and use avocado mayo instead.
    • If making ranch or taco dip, use non-fat plain Greek yogurt.
    • If eating or making dips, serve with pita bread or baked chips rather than higher-fat fried chips.

    Cessna offers the following recipes to help March Madness party planners provide healthy alternatives:

    Black Bean & Corn Quinoa Salad

    Serving size: ½ cup      Carbs in serving: 15 g


    • 1 cup quinoa
    • ½ cup black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 Roma tomato
    • 1 tbsp. red onion, chopped
    • 1/3 cup frozen corn
    • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped


    • Cook quinoa according to package directions
    • In a large bowl, add all ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined
    • Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator and serve later on.

    Wonton Taco Cups

    Serving Size: 3 cups     Carbs in serving: 28 g


    • 24 wonton wrappers
    • 1 lb. 85/15 or 90/10 ground beef
    • 1 packet of taco seasoning
    • Toppings of choice: shredded lettuce, salsa, shredded cheese, plain Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), avocado, cilantro


    • Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
    • Cook ground beef in skillet over medium heat until done. Drain. Stir in taco seasoning and cook according to package directions.
    • Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Gently push wonton wrappers down in the cups. Add a second wonton wrapper on top of each cup, rotated slightly where the corners of both wrappers show.
    • Distribute ground beef mixture evenly between the 12 cups
    • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown
    • Top with taco toppings of your choice and serve

    Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Celery Sticks (Low Carb)


    • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • ¾ cup plain, Greek yogurt
    • ¼ cup hot sauce of your choice
    • ¼ – ½ diced onion (*optional)
    • 1 clove of garlic, minced
    • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 bunch celery (8-10 medium stalks cut into 2-3 inch pieces)
    • Blue cheese, crumbled


    • Add chicken breasts to bottom of crockpot/slow cooker
    • Combine yogurt, hot sauce, onion, garlic, and garlic powder in a bowl.
    • Cook on high for 3-4 hours or until chicken is cooked through.
    • Transfer chicken to a medium bowl and shred with 2 forks.
    • Fill celery sticks with chicken filling (1-2 tbsp. each)
    • Top with crumbled blue cheese, if desired

    Chicken Salad with Apple Slices


    • 1, 9 oz. pkg chicken breast strips, cooked
    • 3 apples
    • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • ½ cup celery, chopped
    • ¼ cup dried cranberries
    • 2 tbsp. light cream cheese spread with veggies
    • 2 tbsp. avocado mayo
    • Salt & pepper, to taste


    • In a bowl, combine cream cheese, mayo, vinegar, and pepper. Stir in chicken breasts, celery, and dried cranberries.
    • Slice apples into small, round circular, thin pieces.
    • Serve chicken salad on top

    Zucchini Pizza Bites


    • ¼ cup mini pepperoni
    • 3 zucchini
    • 1/3 cup marinara sauce
    • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
    • Salt & pepper, to taste
    • 1 tbsp. EVOO (olive oil)
    • ½ cup low-fat mozzarella


    • Preheat oven to broil
    • Heat EVOO in large skillet over medium high heat. In small batches, add zucchini and cook, flipping just one time until golden brown on each side. Should be about 1-2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper, to taste.
    • Place zucchini rounds on a baking sheet. Top each zucchini round with a little marinara, mozzarella, and pepperoni minis. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
    • Put in oven and make until cheese has melted, about 1-2 minutes, and serve.


    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.