March Madness Doesn't Have to Be Crazy for Your Health

by Peter Viele
March 2020

The brackets are set. The family has gathered. The party has started. The ref's whistle is about to blow, and tipoff is about to commence. But what are you stuffing into your mouth as the excitement swells at the March Madness college basketball party?

Pizza, chicken wings and nachos are the standard go-to fare but are certainly some of the most unhealthy options to provide family or guests. Thinking outside the box and getting beyond those baseline standbys can create a memorable bash and nourish partygoers as they enjoy the action. Incorporate veggies, lower calorie, lower sodium and non-fried foods into the spread to net a lively, lighter mood instead of a greasy mess.

Health-conscious alternatives don't have to be boring either. They can create conversation points and be just as zesty and satisfying as their unhealthy counterparts. Just as the star player sinks a 3-pointer from the top of the key, you'll be known as the MVP of the party.

Easy Finger Foods For Watching College Hoops

Baked Buffalo Cauliflower

Serves 8


1 head of organic cauliflower

1 cup milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

2/3 cups buffalo sauce


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut cauliflower into 1-inch pieces. Add milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and olive oil to mixing bowl. Add cauliflower and mix until cauliflower is completely coated. Strain cauliflower to remove excess batter. Lightly toss cauliflower with panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 15 minutes on foil-lined pan. Remove cauliflower from oven, gently toss with buffalo sauce, and return to the oven for an additional 7 minutes to crisp. Serve with an organic ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Easy Veggie Flatbread Pizzas

Grilled or baked

Offer both regular and gluten-free alternative

Serves 8


2 pkgs of garlic naan bread from Trader Joe's, fresh flatbread or 2 frozen cauliflower pizza crusts

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 qt of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 large zucchini, cut into half-moons

1 large bell pepper, sliced

1 tsp garlic powder, per pizza

1 tsp dried oregano, per pizza

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1 cup crumbled feta

1 cup shredded parmesan

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Alternatively, get grill up to about 450 degrees. Generously brush bread and crusts with olive oil. Top with tomatoes, onions, zucchini, peppers, garlic powder, oregano and a dash of sea salt and pepper. Bake for 8 minutes or grill for 6 minutes. Remove from heat and add feta and parmesan. Return to oven for 4 minutes or grill for 2 minutes to melt. When cheese melts a little, remove from heat. To serve, garnish with fresh basil. Slice flatbread into easy-to-eat strips and cauliflower crust versions into small slices.

Light Artichoke & Spinach Dip

Serves 8

1 8-oz. package reduced-fat cream cheese

3/4 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp Frank's RedHot

1 tsp onion powder

1 14-oz. can organic artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 clamshell package of organic, fresh spinach, chopped roughly

1 cup Italian blend shredded cheese

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 pkg of organic celery, washed and cut into 2-inch sticks

1 small package of organic carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 2-inch sticks


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, yogurt, garlic, salt, pepper, Frank's RedHot and onion powder. Add the artichoke hearts, spinach, 2 cup of Italian cheese and 2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Transfer mixture into a 1 1/2 -2 quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining Italian and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with carrot and celery sticks.


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