It’s Carnival Time!
King Cake Alternatives and Tips For Indulging In Moderation
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (No, not that one, the other one!) Mardi Gras season in New Orleans is one of the most joyful celebrations in the country… But we all know that revelry can spell disaster when it comes to maintaining healthy habits. Here’s a few ways to manage your King Cake cravings and other Carnival downfalls.
Piece By Piece
There are so many delicious kinds of King Cake made right here in New Orleans. Whether you prefer a classic like Manny Randazzo’s, a crowd favorite like Dong Phuong, a new favorite from Bywater Bakery, a gluten free option from Creme Confectionery, or something totally different from Cake Cafe, you can have your cake and eat it too.
The secret isn’t in the sauce, it’s in the portion control. At Sensible Meals, we believe the key to success is moderation. Eating too much of a good thing isn’t good for you, and neither is too much of something healthy. Keeping your King Cake slices to a reasonable size (and not going back for seconds!) means you can feel fulfilled by the joy of this seasonal treat without taking a toll on your health and fitness goals.
Cut Yourself A Break
If you really have the self-discipline to only allow yourself one or two days of cheating over the course of several weeks of parades, kudos to you. These small slips will not undo all the progress you’ve done in maintaining healthy habits the rest of the year. But if you’re like most people, it’s hard to stop at just one cheat– and Mardi Gras is a marathon, not a sprint.
Being mindful about your eating and drinking habits will pay off in the long run even if it makes the short-term less fun. With that being said, don’t beat yourself up for mistakes that happen while celebrating. Stressing yourself out will only make you want to give up and cheat more. Tomorrow is always a new day to reset and begin again.
Hydration Is Key
We all know that drinking water alongside our alcohol can prolong our night out and help avoid hangovers, but that doesn’t mean we always remember to do it. Especially on a parade route where bathroom access might be scarce, we’re not inclined to fill up on water alone.
But drinking water has many health benefits, including increasing energy and decreasing stress both of which you’ll need for the long haul of parades in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day. It increases your metabolism to help you burn off what you’ve already consumed, and makes you feel fuller so you’re less likely to overindulge. No parade prep is complete without a big bottle of water– and maybe a plan of where to go when it’s time to pee (and then refill your water bottle)!
Fill Your Go Cup
In a city where you can take any of your favorite alcoholic drinks to-go, why not pack some of your own healthy beverages? If you’ve already got a drink in your hand, you’ll be less inclined to offer that calorie-laden beer or sugary cocktail someone tries to hand you on the route.
For those who are choosing to abstain from alcohol during Carnival, you deserve a medal. For many folks, whether they’ve embraced a sober lifestyle long-term or are taking a temporary sabbatical, Mardi Gras is the most tempting time of the year. Keeping your cup full can help keep temptation at bay by occupying the space in your hand that alcohol otherwise would.
There are a number of alternatives that look inconspicuous enough to avoid the unwanted, awkward conversations that can come about while everyone else is drinking and pressuring you to join them. A can of LaCroix or other sparkling water in a koozie looks no different from a beer. Similarly, sparkling water in a cup with a lime or lemon can look like a cocktail. In addition to being excellent low/no-calorie options, staying hydrated will help your body feel better in the morning after you’ve been jumping around trying to catch throws all night.
For folks who are still drinking alcohol but want to keep calories down, find a signature drink and stick with it. Sparkling water and citrus fruit make a great low/no calorie mixer, while anything made with real fruit will have much less sugar than anything made with grenadine, sour mix, or other cocktail syrups. The best part about making your own concoction is that you’ll be able to regulate everything that goes into it. That way, there are no surprises later when someone hands you the wrong beer or tells you exactly how much sugar was in that punch you just drank.
The late-night, post-parade munchies are inevitable. If you’ve been in the French Quarter after a long night of partying, you know the temptation of a slice of pizza or a hot dog from the Lucky Dog cart. To fight this urge, pack yourself some snacks. Protein bars, nuts, cheese, and jerky, are all great high-protein choices that are easily portable and will fill you up quickly. Just be sure to check the sugar and sodium content of your packaged foods like snack bars and jerky to make sure they’re not secretly full of either. And though nuts are full of “good fats,” you know by now that the calories in a handful of nuts can add up quickly, so enjoying them in moderation is still your best bet.
Keep It Moving
The best cure for wanting to eat too much? Get moving! If you find yourself at a party with a particularly tempting snack table, keep circulating in the room so you’re not standing next to it for an hour, mindlessly eating chips off the table while having a conversation. A dance floor is always a surefire place to resist temptation: not only are you too busy busting a move to think about food, you’re burning off calories in the process.
On the parade route, there are plenty of things to pay attention to and keep your hands full. If you have kids, chances are you’re holding them up on ladders, shoulders, or any other way they can be front and center for throws. Catch some beads yourself– and if you catch any junk food (I’m looking at you Chee Wees and Moon Pies!) hand them to the kid next to you. It’s the Mardi Gras way. With your hands full of parade goodies, you won’t be able to reach for the nearest food or drink.
Set Boundaries For Yourself
Do you work in an office where someone brings in a King Cake every few days? Office goodies (like donuts) can be devastating to diets all year round, but something about this limited-edition food makes it harder to resist. The fix for this is simple if you have the willpower: don’t engage. If the King Cake is kept in the kitchen, for example, don’t go in that room. If it’s unveiled at a certain time each day, schedule yourself another meeting or work task for that time. You can always explain to your coworkers that you’re fighting the urge to break your healthy habits (most people are receptive to that idea) so they know you’re not just being rude
The same boundaries go for your home: if you don’t want to have the late-night temptation for a slice of King Cake, don’t bring one home! Enjoy a slice with coffee at your favorite bakery on your way home, but do yourself the favor of removing temptation before it starts.
Here’s the moral of the story: if you distract yourself with the other excesses of the Mardi Gras season, you’ll be too distracted to partake in the excess of food and drink. Everyone has a different standard for acceptable cheat meals or cheat days, and it’s up to you and your nutrition team to decide what’s healthy for your body. Willpower is something everyone struggles with, and maintaining it can be even harder during Carnival. With a little preparation, you can avoid putting yourself in tempting situations and make the season of indulgence a little easier to weather.
For meal prep delivered to your door that makes life easier all year round, visit eatsensiblemeals.com to see our full range of dietary options. See you at the parades!