Julie Fortenberry, RD, LDN

Mardi Gras season is a time for celebration and certainly a little indulgence, but a long carnival season can certainly take a toll on our health and waist lines. The concern is that Mardi Gras is not just one day in this city- it’s 6 weeks. So the result of celebrating anything for this long is usually weight gain. The key is planning ahead for a healthy Mardi Gras party, and pre or post parade snacks.

People parade differently – some show up on the route with a tailgating/buffet style with coolers, tables and BBQ pits while others bring what they can fit in their pockets.

Which ever your style, here are some tips:

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Keep it lean

If you do have a heat source such as a grill or warmer, throw some leaner meats and veggies on the grill such as chicken and shrimp kabobs. If you have access to a warming source like a crockpot, keep it full of filling foods such as a healthier chili (made with lean ground beef and beans) or a healthier red bean and brown rice.

Cut it up

If you plan to bring a cooler, make healthy sandwiches in advance, cut fresh fruit and vegetables that are easy to grab or pick up ready-made fruit and veggie trays. Fried chicken is popular at parades. Most people tell me it’s the only time of year they eat it. If that’s the case, enjoy a breast without guilt but if you want a healthier selection, try a Rotisserie chicken.

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It’s a marathon, not a sprint

It’s a long day so plan to bring family-friendly snacks.  Eating healthy snacks such as nuts, cheese cubes, or fruit throughout the day can help keep your hunger under control and avoid over-eating during meal time.

Portion, Portion, Portion

One of the most important keys to remember with all of this is portion control. Eat slowly and enjoy your food, but take time to listen to your body and recognize when you are full.

Don’t forget about dinner

Also plan ahead for after the parade. Have a healthy meal prepped and ready to eat once you return home from a long day. Crockpot or leftovers. This will keep you from overindulging on foods when you are tired.

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Alcohol: the key here is pacing yourself. Parade days can be long and this means plenty of alcohol calories could be consumed. A good rule of thumb is to have one drink, then one water, one drink, one water. This keeps you in the atmosphere yet really cuts back the calories. It is also important to be aware of the high-calorie offenders like daiquiris and mixed drinks with juices and sodas.

Rule of thumb

Let’s talk about king cake- it’s hard to say no especially when it’s only one time a year. If you choose, enjoy a slice but be aware of portions. Your slice of King cake should be the width of YOUR thumb.

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Simple changes can make a big difference this Carnival season. But remember if you were not your best, tomorrow is a new day. Commit to starting fresh no matter what happened yesterday.

Fortenberry, JulieJulie Fortenberry is a registered dietitian at Touro Infirmary. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Southern Mississippi. Julie believes that lifestyle changes and wholesome nutrition are obtainable, and brings real-life understanding to wellness and nutritional counseling. 

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