Festival Food: How to Make Healthy Choices
It's no secret that we are known for our food, festivals and love for our families in Louisiana. It's not unusual for people to roll their eyes at the idea of eating healthy at festivals. And nutritionally speaking, a day or two of indulging in decadent festival food won't make or break things. If you want to ensure you have the energy to maximize your festival-going experience, what you eat and drink will impact the way you feel.
If feeling good and having the energy to give your family, work, etc. are essential to you, then what you eat matters. The question is, how can we eat well while still enjoying Louisiana's culture?
Tips for a healthier festival:
- Beware of buzzwords. I love seeing more and more festivals providing healthier options. However, avoid assuming keto, vegan or gluten-free items are more nutritious. Check out how the items are prepared because the truth is a fried vegan doughnut is still a doughnut.
- Hydrate. Bring a refillable water bottle and drink up and fill up on water! Other low-calorie hydrating options include sparkling water, fruit-infused water or herbal iced teas.
- Eat more plants. When it comes to what to eat, think: "How can I eat more plants?’’ From salads to beans to fresh fruit; where can you incorporate more of these into your diet? Think Southern-style plant-based eating. Beans or peas, okra and collard greens create a plate full of fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, all for less than 400 calories.
- Pack some snacks. Stock up on the right snacks to keep you energized and satisfied. A few nonperishable ideas include nuts, trail mix and protein bars.
- Plan in advance. Check out the food vendors in advance; many festivals now share their menus online in advance. Take this opportunity to seek out who is offering grilled proteins and veggies so you can know where they will be located. Scope out the decadent and splurge-worthy foods as well. What festival food are you looking forward to the most? By planning where to find both the nutritious food and your savory splurges, you're empowered to fuel well while still enjoying your favorite festival foods!
- Share the splurge. When it comes to the more indulgent items, find a friend (or a few) to share. Usually, a few bites are all you wanted to satisfy that craving!
- Look for Ochsner's Eat Fit seal. It has been exciting to see the growth and expansion of the Eat Fit initiative throughout Louisiana. While not all festivals will have Eat Fit options, many are starting to! Eat Fit is a nonprofit initiative of Ochsner Health System that began in 2013. The Ochsner Eat Fit team works with local restaurants to develop and identify menu items that meet specific nutritional criteria, including no white carbs, less than a teaspoon of added sugar, low animal-based saturated fats, and reduced sodium. There is no charge for the restaurants to be a part of Eat Fit.
Learn more about healthy eating at Ochsner Eat Fit.