Image source: healthycookingblog.com
Mardi Gras season is known for its over-the-top indulgence. From king cakes to beignets and everything in between, the very words “Mardi Gras” translate to “Fat Tuesday”. All of this indulgent food makes it even more challenging to stick to a healthy diet. Luckily, it is possible to partake in the seasonal flavors while still maintaining a healthy diet. Below, we map out some helpful tips for navigating our way through Mardi Gras.
Everything in moderation. There are no “good” foods or “bad” foods. Thinking that all Mardi Gras foods are “bad” will likely send you on the path to over-thinking it and eventually over-eating. Instead, re-frame your way of thinking. There are healthy foods that you should aim to eat plenty of and unhealthy foods that you should try to avoid most of the time. When it comes to king cakes or beignets, allow yourself to enjoy one slice or piece, but try to fill up on healthy foods that consist mostly of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. By having a healthy eating plan and allowing yourself to enjoy a small portion of dessert, you will be more satisfied and less likely to over-eat.
Choose your beverage wisely
Alcoholic drinks tend to be higher in calories and essentially offer no nutritional value. Some of the highest calorie alcoholic beverages are favorites during Mardi Gras. On average, one 32-ounce daiquiri has 1,800-2,000 calories (mostly from sugar). One (tiny) 9.5-ounce hurricane has upwards of 300 calories!
For a lower calorie option, stick with beer! One bottle of Abita Mardi Gras Bock has only 187 calories. OR if cocktails are your thing, stick to lighter options that combine only fresh juices with a spirit (e.g. a Skinny Margarita). Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks is a great way to stay hydrated and to reduce the amount of extra calories you consume.
Tradition with a healthy twist
One way to experience the seasonal flavorings without all the added calories, fat, and sugar, is to make healthier versions of your favorite Mardi Gras dishes. Try this homemade king cake recipe. Using ingredients like reduced-fat crescent rolls and reduced-fat cream cheese help to reduce the total fat and calorie content. For dirty rice fans, try substituting cauliflower rice for white rice. Using cauliflower “rice” instead of white rice helps to reduce the number of carbohydrates and calories, while also adding protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (e.g. vitamin C, vitamin-B-6, and magnesium).
If you know that no substitute or healthy version will satisfy your craving for that one king cake from your favorite bakery, then go ahead and buy the king cake…and take it to work! By sharing your king cake with others, you will still be able to enjoy it, but without the temptation of having to eat the whole thing by yourself.
Another way to cut back on excess calories is to share your favorite dish as an appetizer when you go out to eat. Or, you can order your favorite Mardi Gras entrée for lunch and box half of it up right away. Presto! Now you don’t have to cook anything for dinner AND you just found a way to enjoy your favorite Mardi Gras dish while also cutting the calories in half.
Burn it off!
One of the best things about Mardi Gras is the parades! Walking to and from the parades is a great way to burn calories. One hour of moderate intensity walking burns about 200 calories. If you include moderate intensity dancing (and you KNOW there will be dancing because… Mardi Gras), add another 300 calories burned per hour.
The best way to enjoy Mardi Gras season is to have a healthy eating plan as outlined above, stay active, and have fun!