By Laura Buxenbaum
If you haven’t already, it’s time to get into the game! Basketball season is coming to a close and the grand finale is the NCAA tournament, a 3-week basketball showdown. I grew up in Chapel Hill, so basketball runs in my veins. For me, life in March revolves around watching basketball (and checking my bracket).
If you’ll be sitting on the sidelines cheering for your favorite team this March, don’t foul out on your New Year’s Resolution to eat healthy. Remember to keep good nutrition in your game plan by focusing on key players like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy that help supply essential vitamins and minerals that many Americans are lacking. After all, you need to fuel your body for all of that jumping, screaming and cheering you will be doing! Here are my final four picks for delicious, healthy game day snacking recipes.
Slam Dunk Snack Mix
Why buy a snack mix when you can have a tasty and healthier homemade one? Sweet, savory, or crunchy, these combinations are sure to please. This snack mix will be your MVP because of the whole grains plus added cheese cubes which contribute high quality protein and calcium – that’s something to cheer about!
• 2 cups whole grain check square cereal (such as Whole Grain Chex)
• 2 cups honey-sweetened oat cereal (such as Honey Nut Cheerios)
• 2 1/2 ounces (about 3 cups) pretzel sticks
• 1/2 cup sunflower seed kernels
• 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup honey
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or dried cherries
• 8 ounces reduced-fat Mozzarella and Cheddar cheese cubes
Mix cereals, pretzel sticks and sunflower seed kernels in a large bowl; set aside.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir in honey, oil and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in cinnamon and mix well. Pour over cereal mixture in bowl, stirring until evenly coated.
Spread into a baking pan and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Spread on waxed paper or aluminum foil; cool completely.
Toss with dried cranberries; store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Toss in cheese cubes just before serving.
Hot Pizza Dip
Don’t bother with the pizza delivery guy; he’s watching the games too! Instead, make a substitution with this creamy, flavorful pizza dip. Serve it with whole wheat bread sticks and crackers for a nutrient-rich slam dunk.
• 6 ounces light cream cheese
• 1/2 cup light sour cream
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 1/2 cup pizza sauce
• 1 cup shredded low-moisture, part-skim Mozzarella cheese
• 1/4 cup diced red peppers
• 1/4 cup sliced green onions
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• Whole wheat bread sticks or crackers
Combine cream cheese, sour cream and oregano in bowl; stir until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly into 9-inch pie plate or quiche pan. Top with pizza sauce, Mozzarella cheese, peppers and onions. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve with whole wheat bread sticks or crackers.
Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip
Score big points with your fellow fans by sharing this crowd-pleasing starter on game day. Whether you’re at a party or cheering from home, tip off with our health promoting baked spinach artichoke yogurt dip. Packed with veggies and made with yogurt, this crowd pleasing dip is much lower in fat and calories than your typical artichoke dip. A great source of bone building calcium with the bonus of antioxidants!
• 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
• 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
• 1 (8-ounce) container low-fat plain yogurt
• 1 cup shredded part-skim, low-moisture Mozzarella cheese
• 1/4 cup chopped green onion
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 2 tablespoons chopped red pepper
Combine all ingredients except red pepper and mix well. Pour mixture into 1-quart casserole dish or 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and sprinkle with red peppers. Serve with toasted bread and sliced veggies.
Lemon Greek Yogurt Cheesecake Bars With Berry Swirl
Block those high calorie and sugar laden desserts. Call a time out and whip up these delicious cheesecake bars. Made with Greek yogurt and low-fat cream cheese, this dessert will score big points in the final quarter for your waistline and taste buds.
• 8 graham cracker sheets
• 4 tablespoons butter, melted
• 2 large eggs
• 2 cups 2% low-fat plain Greek yogurt
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• Zest of one lemon
• 1 cup sliced strawberries or raspberries
• 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a food processor, pulse graham cracker sheets to form crumbs.
Add melted butter; pulse to combine and press into the bottom of a greased 8- x 8-inch baking dish.
Wipe food processor clean; add eggs and remaining bar ingredients (not berries). Process just until smooth (do not over process).
Pour mixture into pan on top of crust.
In a medium bowl, combine berries and sugar; cover with a paper towel and microwave for 90 seconds.
Pour berry mixture into food processor and process until smooth; let cool.
Pour berry mixture into 4-5 lines across filling in pan. Use a knife to swirl into top of filling.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until crust starts to pull away from edges of the pan and edges of filling are mostly set (center will still be slightly jiggly).
Once cooled, place in refrigerator and chill for 3-4 hours. Cut into bars and serve.
Laura Buxenbaum is a mom of two boys under the age of 6 and a registered dietitian with over 12 years experience in clinical dietetics and nutrition education. She holds a master’s degree in public health and nutrition from UNC- Chapel Hill. She currently serves as the Senior Manager of Nutrition Affairs for the Southeast Dairy Association, where she is responsible for developing and conducting nutrition education programs for health professionals in NC and VA. Laura also works closely with the media to provide research based nutrition information to the consumer through television, newspaper and online interviews.