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6 healthy junk food recipes by the Kansas City Chiefs dietitians that players love, from pizza to wings

Leslie Bonci
Leslie Bonci creates dishes such as potato-crust pizza.
  • Leslie Bonci, the Kansas City Chiefs dietitian, creates dishes to fuel NFL athletes.
  • Bonci's challenge is to make nutritious food that the athletes recognize and want to eat.
  • She share six of the team's favorite recipes.

Helping to fuel NFL athletes by creating dishes that provide all the nutrients they need, but will also want to eat, is not easy.

That’s been the challenge faced by Leslie Bonci, the Kansas City Chiefs dietitian, since 2015. 

This is in fact her last season with the Chiefs — and the team this year has been particularly picky, she told Business Insider.

“They’re a younger group, and it’s about what you’ve grown up with and been exposed to,” Bonci said. “If you grow up with some degree of food limitations for whatever reason, you're not going to have an acai bowl because you've never had that, so it's not an appropriate recommendation.” 

So Bonci and the Chiefs chefs try to make nutritious food that still looks familiar to the players, which they’ll be willing to try.

She shared six of the team’s favorite recipes.

1. Black bean dip
Black bean dip
Black bean dip

Bonci said this is an easy, tasty, nutrient-filled alternative to high-fat dips. "Not only does it deliver on flavor, but you get a double dose of veggies with the beans and salsa as well as double protein from the Greek yogurt and the beans," she said. "And if you use bean chips and/or veggies for dippers, you are an A-lister when it comes to eating well."

Makes 1 ½ cups.


  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 5-ounce container plain non-fat or whole milk Greek yogurt

  • ½ cup medium spicy chunky salsa

  • ½ packet taco seasoning mix


Pour all the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. If you don't have a blender, mash the beans and then add other ingredients and mix well.

Serve with tortilla chips and/or vegetables.

2. Energy bites
Energy bites
Energy bites

These energy bites are a more exciting way to eat fruit than just having an apple, and feature prunes as a secret ingredient that you can't actually taste, Bonci said. "It's an energy bite that brings the flavor of chocolate, the flavor of peanut butter, but does it in a lighter way," she said.


  • 1 cup chopped prunes

  • 1 cup mini dark chocolate chips

  • 1 ½ cups dry oats

  • 2 cups crispy rice cereal

  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)

  • ½ cup honey

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon grated orange peel


In a large bowl, combine prunes, oats, and crispy rice cereal. Mix well.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine peanut butter, chocolate chips, honey, cinnamon, and orange peel. Microwave on high for 90 seconds or until bubbling.

Remove from microwave, stir well, and add to dry ingredients. Mix until well blended. Roll into small balls or press into ice cube trays. Put in refrigerator or freezer to set.

3. Potatoes a-go-go
Potatoes a-go-go
Potatoes a-go-go

Bonci recommended adding whatever seasoning you like, and serving with a ranch dip.


  • 24 ounces mini Yukon Gold potatoes (about 40)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

  • 1 tablespoon barbecue or buffalo seasoning


Put potatoes in a bowl and toss with the olive oil. In a separate bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs and barbecue seasoning and mix well.

In small batches, put the potatoes in the breadcrumb mixture and roll around to coat well. Transfer to a cookie sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, and serve.

4. Potato crust pizza
Potato crust pizza
Potato crust pizza

Making a pizza base out of potato is a little more time-consuming than the traditional version, but it can be a good option for anyone who eats gluten-free and also provides a hit of fiber, Bonci said.

Makes one pizza.

Ingredients for the crust

  • 1 20-ounce bag shredded potatoes (found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store)

  • ¾ cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt

  • 1 egg, large

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • Cracked ground pepper to taste


  • ½ can fire-roasted tomatoes with chiles, drained

  • 1 cup torn baby spinach leaves, stems removed

  • 8 olives, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese

  • Olive oil to brush the crust


Strain the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a large bowl for about two hours. 

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a strainer with paper towels and pour in the potatoes to absorb excess moisture — the potatoes should be dry. 

In a large bowl beat the egg, add the potatoes, the strained yogurt, two teaspoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well. 

Turn onto a parchment-lined pizza pan and press down with a fork to evenly distribute the potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from the oven.

Use a pastry brush to brush the potato surface with olive oil. Spoon tomatoes evenly over the crust, sprinkle on the spinach leaves and olives, and top with the cheese. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.

5. Chickpea patties
Chickpea patties
Chickpea patties

These chickpea patties are really popular with the team and very delicious, Bonci said. 

“It's getting in the health without it being so blatantly obvious,” Bonci said, adding that the patties provide extra fiber, protein, and vegetables, which the players don’t always actively choose to eat.


  • 1 ½ cup dry (uncooked) chickpeas

  • ½ cup packed fresh chopped parsley

  • ½ cup packed fresh chopped basil

  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion

  • 6 garlic cloves, fresh

  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons tahini

  • Oil for cooking


Rinse the chickpeas in a strainer and add to a large pot. Cover with two inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for one minute then cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for one hour, before draining and rinsing.

In the meantime, add parsley or basil, onion, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes to a food processor. Mix until well processed then set aside.

Once the chickpeas are slightly cooled, add to the food processor, along with cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and tahini. Mix to combine thoroughly, scraping down the sides as needed. Add more tahini or a bit of water if the mixture is looking too crumbly or dry. Add spices/salt/herbs to taste and refrigerate for half an hour or more to firm the mixture up.

Remove from refrigerator and gently form into four to six even patties using your hands. If the patties aren’t holding together, the mixture may need to be blended more thoroughly, or blended with a bit more tahini.

To cook, heat a large metal or cast iron skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Once hot, add enough oil to create a thin layer on the bottom of the pan and wait one to two minutes for the oil to heat up. 

Place only as many patties as will fit comfortably in the pan and cook for two to three minutes on each side. Once the bottom side is evenly browned, flip gently, as they can be fragile. Continue until all patties are cooked. Adjust heat as needed if they’re browning too quickly, or aren’t cooking quickly enough.

Serve with dips such as tomato sauce or aioli.

6. Peanut-coated portobellos
Peanut-coated portobellos
Peanut-coated portobellos

Bonci was surprised to find the players really enjoyed these mushrooms, she said. "It was kind of the alternative to a wing, but it was a mushroom, so it was like, 'Oh my god, they're eating something that's good for them that they actually enjoyed,'" she joked.


  • 2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed, sliced into 1/3 inch thick wedges

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • ¾ cup salted peanuts, finely ground

  • 2½ tablespoons peanut powder

  • 1 teaspoon powdered harissa

  • 2 eggs


In one bowl, beat the eggs until well blended. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together flour, one teaspoon salt, and pepper. In a third bowl, blend the peanuts, peanut flour, harissa, and ½ teaspoon salt.

Coat the mushroom slices with flour, then dip them in the egg and finally the peanut mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan. When the oil is sizzling, add the mushroom slices and cook for five minutes per side. Remove from the heat, and set on a paper towel.

Enjoy as they are, with a squeeze of lemon, on a salad, or serve with a salsa or barbecue sauce.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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