Healthy Mardi Gras Snacks and Swaps
For many Louisiana residents, sticking to a New Year’s weight loss resolution isn’t easy during the Mardi Gras season. Regular guest appearances from king cake and fried chicken before and after Mardi Gras parades make it difficult to keep the calories at bay.
If you go to just one or two parades throughout Carnival season, what you eat and drink along the route really won’t make or break your diet. However, if you’re a Mardi Gras enthusiast and don’t miss a parade all season long, creating a food and drink plan ahead of time will help you avoid a truly Fat Tuesday.
When packing your parade-day gear, keep this snack list handy so you can bring along a variety of lower-calorie, lightened up items with you. And just to be clear, we’re not saying that all of these items are necessarily nutritious, but they’re at least better than the standard Mardi Gras fare.
Sorry, but we’re not referring to the thousand-plus calorie bombshells from the daiquiri shop. We’re talking about DIY mocktail types blended with real fruit (frozen works well) and not all the sugar.
Flavored or Bottled Waters
Stay hydrated with flavored sparkling water like La Croix, Dasani Sparkling or Target’s Simply Balanced, which are all available in a variety of flavors. They have zero calories with no artificial sweeteners or colors, and make for a great low-calorie mixer as well.
If plain water isn’t appealing to you, try adding flavor with a stick pack of Agave Five Drink Mix packets by Madhava (available at natural foods stores like Whole Foods Market) with just five calories per packet and nothing artificial.
When looking at protein bars, check the label to be sure it’s legitimately a ‘protein’ bar since some brands like SlimFast and Kellogg’s Special K Protein Meal Bars can have 50 percent more sugar than protein.
The majority of granola bars are high in added sugar, so check labels for those that at least have more protein than sugar. A few of my top picks include Nature Valley PROTEIN and Kashi chewy granola bars, specifically Honey Almond Flax and Peanut Butter.
Individually-wrapped cheeses like Babybel and string cheese have just 50 to 90 calories, making them an easy fit for a low-cal portable protein snack.
Calories from nuts can quickly add up (those jumbo bags of peanuts along the parade route can pack in nearly 800 calories), so it’s best to go for the single-serving packets, or divide out a larger bag into snack-size baggies.
Most jerkies are high in sodium, but it’s still far better than a hot dog or chili cheese nachos. Plus it’s pretty much entirely protein and low in saturated fat. And it doesn’t have to be just beef jerky – you can also find turkey jerky, salmon jerky or vegan ‘tofurky’ jerky in many natural foods stores.
Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is paid to recommend items. This article was originally published in 2014 as part of a Mardi Gras Parade Route Survival Guide on NOLA.com.
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