Food Strategies During Mardi Gras

Mardi GrasMardi Gras means FAT Tuesday.  It’s a celebration of excess before the lockdown of Lent.  So I’m not trying get anyone to diet.  In fact, I believe when we humans get the rare chance to celebrate, we should.  It’s just we New Orleanians (including those that are NOLA for just two weeks) get more than our share of opportunities!  So this article will not preach abstinence, but rather suggest strategies to not completely blow your New Year’s resolution, feel shame, lose hope, and chuck your diet altogether.  *Not sure if I can deliver on the “no shame” promise, as there’s plenty of that generated by things other than food and drink.

Let’s start with some perspective.  A margarita is 229 calories, a 12 oz. beer is 150, and a vodka tonic has 171.  A few cocktails and a single slice of king cake, which has 343 calories, and you’ve packed on about 900 calories, and that’s before counting your meals.  I think you’ll agree if that’s all the calories you consumed while waiting for a parade, that’s a slow day.  Add to that the poor judgment that comes with drinking and you’ve got questionable food choices like Domino’s, Rally’s Café Du Monde, and shopping cart food vendors — you get the picture.  But why am I telling you this, you’ve done it before.

Let’s take a minute to figure out how to have your king cake and eat it too.

First, have a lean and sober breakfast.  It’s the first meal of a long day enriched with plenty of eating and drinking opportunities.  Reel it in while you still have some hope and willpower.  A couple of poached eggs and some light calorie wheat toast and maybe some fresh fruit or yogurt will get off to a good start.

Second, plan on eating throughout the day.  Now that your breakfast has brought you back to life and you can think again it’s time to make a plan.  You’re going to be out on the street, you know you’re going to get hungry, right?  Plan for a mini-meal every three hours.  Don’t leave this to chance, or you’ll end up drunkenly dining on cotton candy, pizza, french fries and Popeye’s.  Prepare some nutritious snack foods to take with you on the parade route like yogurt cups, cheese and crackers, apples and peanut butter, even beef jerky. That way there’s something on hand when you get hungry or snack-happy.  And let’s face it, if you’re drinking, it won’t matter if it’s a lean and healthy choice or Mickey-D’s.  You’re not going to remember it anyway.

Third, limit yourself to one small piece of king cake a day.  It doesn’t do me any good to discourage consumption of this sugary food, so just eat the stuff — one small piece — and move on.  Remember to be prepared for this.  That means only pack one serving per person who will want a slice.

Fourth, drink only after you’ve eaten.  So if you’re eating a mini-meal every 3 hours, you’re drinking one or two cocktails every 3 hours, after a meal.  DO NOT substitute alcohol for one of your mini-meals!!  I know how you think!  Also, forgo the candied up versions of cocktails.  A gin and tonic is a better choice than a Manhattan, and Bloody Marys are even better. You know how you prepared those snacks?  Prepare your booze too, lest you end up in line at some roadside stand buying sugared up 600 calorie daiquiris.

And fifth, if it’s a day parade, stop drinking when the parade ends.  If it’s a night parade, don’t start drinking until after the parade starts.  And if you’re sitting on St. Charles Avenue all day doing both, choose a 6 hour window between.  And I mean this in earnest: good luck with that.

Have a safe and happy Mardi Gras, you bunch of drunks!  Look us up when it’s over and we’ll get you back on the path to righteous living.

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One thought on “Food Strategies During Mardi Gras

  1. I’m adding a comment to this after speaking with my best friend Jamie. Jamie is a guy who approaches absolutely nothing in life without a great deal of forethought. He now lives in California, but he grew up in NOLA. He told me his Mardi Gras drink of choice was Brandy. I asked him why because I knew there would be an explanation I could never predict. His answer: No hangover, you don’t have to constantly stop and find a bathroom, it doesn’t have to be kept cold, and a sip every now and then keeps you buzzed. He would buy a pint of Brandy, put it in his back pocket, and walk the parade route, stopping occasionally to enjoy conversation with friends. Totally mobile, totally independent. He also said that “getting sloppy drunk on beer and sugared up cocktails is for amateurs.”

    So my sixth tip is to be like Jamie (always), choose brandy (about 67 calories an ounce), keep it under control , and don’t be a Mardi Gras amateur.

    That’s my last word.

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