As March fills with “madness,” don’t let snacking foul you out!

Avoid “mindless eating” by planning ahead and making game time snacks a bracket winner.

Our brackets are filled out; we are dressed in our favorite team’s colors, and are ready for an eventful few hours of fun while cheering on our college basketball stars. As they work hard to get to the Final Four, consider how hard you are working. What kind of snacking are you doing during the game?

It is quite natural to want a snack or two, or if you have friends over to put out a small buffet of snacks to indulge in while you enjoy a game or two. But if you are watching the games and not paying attention to what you are eating, it becomes “mindless eating,” which can lead to over-indulging on your favorite foods. By creating a game plan for your snacking, you will not overeat and perhaps even sneak in a few healthy foods during game time.

Pre-game warm up

Plan ahead for what you plan to serve and how much you will be putting out for folks to eat. Avoid setting out bags of food; portion it out in bowls, plates etc., to eliminate the “mindless eating.” When it is gone, it is gone!

Be a team player

We have all seen the TV viewer who sits in their chair with a big bowl of something in their lap, scooping in handful after handful of food into their mouth. If you have a bowl of chips or nachos, pass it around to the rest of your “team.” If you are alone, portion a serving size into a bowl and bring it with you to your chair, avoid eating from the bag.

Plan a halftime activity

Get up and move at halftime! Whether it is to take the dog out for a few minutes, dance around the room, go out and shoot a few baskets yourself, don’t spend that halftime staring at the TV.

Shot clocks aren’t built into our bodies; consider stopping at the buzzer

Research tells us it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full. Remember to eat slowly – and stop eating when you feel full.

As the teams continue to battle, challenge yourself to come up with fun healthy snacks! Some of my favorites include:

  • Whole grain crackers and hummus
  • Fruit and dip
  • Popcorn (try flavoring it with taco seasoning, garlic powder or another favorite of yours)
  • Veggies and dip
  • Pretzels or baked chips
  • Fruit
  • Raw or roasted nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Make your own trail mix using some of the ingredients listed above
  • Look at your favorite dip recipes and tweak them to make them healthier (substitute plain low-fat yogurt for sour cream, use low-fat cream cheese, etc.). For healthy snack ideas visit www.choosemyplate.gov

Michigan State University Extension knows that taking a timeout to enjoy basketball this time of year is always fun. Remember to monitor your portions, enjoy what you are eating and pace yourself to not over-consume. Also remember to include physical activity into your busy schedule, we may not be racing up and down the court like our favorite athletes are, but we can make our dietary and personal physical activity choices a slam dunk.

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