Fan Favorite Foods that Score Big Points

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Watching your favorite college basketball team make it one round further in your bracket just isn’t complete without a table full of snacks to enjoy, right? While the crowd-pleasing assortment of wings, chili and nachos is tempting, there may be some good reasons to keep fat, salt and sugar on the sidelines during your next viewing party.

According to an extensive study done by the Harvard School of Public Health and the National University of Singapore, individuals who consume fried foods at least once per week increase their risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease compared to those who don’t. If fried foods are part of a person’s diet four to six times per week, that risk increases to 39 percent.

And it’s not just fried food. Sugar can contribute to weight gain, which also increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. In addition, the American Heart Association states salt, and foods made with a lot of sodium, may increase blood pressure in some people.

However, healthy substitutes need not be losers in the taste department. Here are a few ideas:

  • Wings for the win. Serving cauliflower wings or baked chicken wings in place of fried wings can help cut down on the amount of fat and calories you’ll consume. Try a chili-rubbed chicken wings recipe for some fan-pleasing flavor. 
  • Time to dip. Instead of chips with a sour cream-based dip, opt for a generous spread of veggies with guacamole or hummus. Go beyond the usual carrots and celery by including jicama, zucchini, radishes, baby corn and sugar snap peas. Guacamole is a great choice because of the nutrients in avocados – but keep in mind that avocados can be high in calories. 
  • Victorious vegetarian chili. You might be surprised at how hearty, filling and flavorful a meatless chili can be. Black beans, kidney beans and a rainbow of vegetables star in this recipe.
  • No-foul drinks. Hosts can score extra points by offering a wide variety of drinks for those who want to skip the alcohol. Why not go with flavored sparkling water, fruit-based soft drinks, and mixes of juice and club soda? Set out bowls of lemon and lime slices to make them even more enticing.
  • Slam dunk skinny snack mix. This sweet-and-spicy version, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic, features garbanzo beans and dried fruit in place of peanuts and pretzels.
  • Overtime oat bars. For dessert, try these easy-to-make chocolate oat bars from the nutritionists at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Watching the game together can be a great way to show off your team spirit – and food is an important part of any gathering. By taking a little extra time to plan your party, you can provide your guests a winning array of delicious and healthier snack options.