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March Madness: Shoot and Score with Healthy Eating this Postseason

March 13, 2011

Your bracket has been perfect this year and a win this game could mean BIG winnings for you. There are 10 seconds left on the shot clock. The score is tied and your favorite NCAA team has the ball. Your team’s point guard is dodging the defense and dribbling toward the net. Five seconds. He stops at the three point line. Four seconds. Bends his knees. Three seconds. He takes a deep breath, shoots…and SCORES—just as time expires! In the midst of your celebration you reach for an ice cold brew and a handful of potato chips. STOP! Are you really winning with a greasy handful of chips? It’s time to blow the whistle on some unhealthy game day eating habits.

It is so easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm and excitement during this heart-pounding sports season. Believe me, I know the feeling. As a graduate of Michigan State University, I bleed green and white every March. Who doesn’t love sitting around a big screen and rooting for their favorite team? The problem comes when the beer, pizza, and chicken wings start to scream “EAT ME!” louder than the coaches’ scream at their players. Consequently, game days often leave us making poor nutrition choices that we’d otherwise forgo. But don’t fret, all it takes is some simple nutritional awareness to make eating right this March “nothin’ but net.”


Unfortunately the stock for game day is usually of the junk food variety. Even when we feel we are providing a healthy option like a veggie plate, we typically slather on some high fat dressing like ranch or blue cheese. This doesn’t have to be the case. Make March a healthy month by nixing the unhealthy snacks.


While it’s understandable to have most of your attention on the fun of game day put some focus on your food as well. Whether you’re entertaining, visiting a friend’s home, or going out to a venue to watch your game, be prepared.

When you’re hosting…

Stock you home with healthy substitutes such as vegetables with hummus or low-fat cheese and crackers. Show your friends how you keep your great body by keeping the junk out of the house.

When you’re the guest…

Bring a dish you know you’re safe to munch on. If you bring it you always know that no matter what is offered there is a healthy option you can enjoy.

When you’re going out…

If you’re going out to a bar or venue to watch the game have a healthy meal before you leave. Otherwise, you may be tempted to order something off the menu, especially if you’re starving. This could lead to surplus calories. Before you leave eat a high protein, high fiber snack like an apple with reduced fat peanut butter.


Sitting in front of the television, immersed in the action, you may not realize that you’ve already grabbed 8 handfuls from that bowl of chips. In fact, researchers have found that those who eat while watching TV consume upward of 228 more calories than those who do not. It doesn’t sound like much but researchers have discovered that over time these calories really add up and are can significantly contribute to weight gain. Remember, after the beer cans and empty pizza boxes have been tidied there’s one thing that’ll stick around: THE CALORIES.


A lead researcher in mindless eating, Harvey Anderson states that “eating while watching television overrides our ability to know when to stop eating.” An easy solution to overeating is pre-portioning your snacks. Planning ahead is crucial to successful game day eating. If you must snack during the game use good portion judgment. Instead of eating from the same chip bowl as the rest of the group, grab a handful of potato chips in a small bowl or napkin and limit yourself to that portion. This way you are allowing yourself to indulge without sabotaging your eating plan.


Listen, I get it. Sometimes there is nothing like a nice cold beer while you’re watching the game. This might be one of the harder habits to break on game day. So, with that said, let me be blunt—that 22 ounce draft containing hundreds of calories is doing little for your fitness, health and wellness goals. Unfortunately, not only is alcohol a prime source of empty calories, it tends to lower our inhibitions and could lead to eating more foods that are less nutritious. Reality Check: you’re better off without it. For those who feel this tradition is too hard to break on game days the suggestions below may help.


You may have seen them on the shelf; those “embarrassing” beers that boast 55 or 64 calories per bottle. But there’s nothing embarrassing about knowing how many calories you’re consuming. In fact, it’s smart. These are great choices for game days as they are low in calories but still allow you to indulge a bit. Don’t like the taste? Try adding lemon, lime, or an olive to your beer for added flavor.


Most importantly, have fun without losing sight of your goals. By making a few changes like these to your starting lineup of snacks your eating habits are sure to be a slam dunk. Happy March Madness!

Disclosure: portions of this article have been previously published for an e-newsletter. All written content belongs to Elise Truman.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2011 11:58 PM

    Great tips. Having a game plan for sports events and other events makes all the difference!

    • March 14, 2011 12:21 AM

      Hi Joy,

      Thank you for the comment. Preparation is definitely key. Elise provides some great tips for eating/snacking better during this “MUNCH Madness” as I like to call it.

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