For many Big Easy residents, sticking to their New Year’s resolution of losing weight isn’t always easy during Mardi Gras season. Regular guest appearances from king cake to fried chicken before and after Mardi Gras parades can make it difficult to keep the calories at bay if you’re trying to watch your waistline.
If you just go to 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 and you party all Carnival season long, having a food and drink plan in place is key to avoiding a truly Fat Tuesday.
When packing your parade-day gear, keep this checklist below handy so you can bring along a variety of lower-calorie, lightened up items with you to the parade route. 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.
- Beer. From a calorie standpoint, your best bets are the ultra low-calorie beers like Becks Premier Light, MGD 64 or Bud Select 55 (just 64 and 55 calories per beer, respectively). Plus, they have a lower alcohol content than regular beer, which can be a good thing for a marathon parade day. But even a full-flavored beer like Guiness has just 125 calories per bottle, and local New Orleans’ favorite Abita Amber has just 128 calories. So really, as long as you keep things moderate, the calories won’t add up too quickly.
- Daiquiris. Sorry, but we’re not referring to the thousand-plus calorie bombshells from the daiquiri shop. We’re talking about the DIY types, blended with real fruit (frozen works well) and not all the sugar.
- Flavored or Bottled Waters.
- Flavored Waters. Stay hydrated with flavored sparkling water like La Croix, Dasani Sparkling or Target’s Simply Balanced, 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.
- Bottled water. 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. Other flavor packet add-ins include Crystal Light Pure (naturally sweetened with Truvia) or a packet of Emergen-C.
- Protein bars. Some of my favorites are No Cow Bar by D’s Natural’s, EPIC bars, Think Thin and Quest Bars. They’re all protein-rich and low in sugar, with no artificial sweeteners. 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.
- Granola bars. 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’s chewy granola bars, specifically Honey Almond Flax and Peanut Butter.
- Cheese. 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.
- Nuts. 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.
- Jerky. Most 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.
For more details on this topic, read Molly’s full article on Nola.com.