Open Accessibility Menu

6 swaps for a healthier (but still tasty!) Mardi Gras spread

  • Category: Living Well
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Sharla Boothe, Dietitian
6 swaps for a healthier (but still tasty!) Mardi Gras spread

Carnival is here again! At University Medical Center New Orleans, we’re just as excited as anyone to dance, parade, and celebrate our way through the season.

The best Mardi Gras celebrations involve friends and fam, some solid tunes, and of course, plenty of extra-delicious party foods. Fried chicken, Jambalaya, hot dogs, Po-boys, King Cake, cocktails—the list of tantalizing festive treats goes on and on this time of year! However, our favorite Mardi Gras food and beverage traditions aren’t always good for our health: think high sodium levels, lots of fat and sugar, and too much alcohol.

While we all deserve to indulge in a little guilt-free snacking every now and then, it’s important to remember our nutritional needs, too. After all, we’ve got to keep our energy up for all the bead throwing and second lining! This year, why not make a few healthy (but still plenty tasty!) swaps for your backyard BBQ or parade-route picnic? Here are some dietitian-approved recommendations to get you started.

chicken on a plate

1. Indulge with oven “fried” chicken. Fried chicken is a tasty classic—nothing beats that salty, crispy flavor! Did you know you can get all of that deliciousness without the extra fat of frying? Try baking your chicken in the oven instead. This healthier, high protein snack will keep you and your family parading all day long! Be sure to season with plenty of your favorite spices.

2. Try a whole-wheat pasta salad. Swap out your regular pasta salad for a whole-wheat version instead for a delicious, energizing side-dish packed with fiber and nutrients. Try it with chopped vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and chopped squash. Dress it up with olive-oil and vinegar for a light, refreshing kick!

vegetable platter with dip

3. Snack on fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts. To avoid getting hangry and grabbing the nearest candy bar in sight, be sure to pack plenty of nutritious snacks for on-the-go. Fresh fruits, pre-chopped veggies, and heart-healthy nuts are a great option for parading, picnicking, or wherever Mardi Gras takes you!

4. Get creative with healthy sandwiches. We love a good Po’Boy as much as anyone, but there are so many nutritious, delicious sandwich options out there! Try a wrap made with grilled chicken, or a vegetarian option with chopped veggies and hummus. Adding a little cheese will up the protein factor, and avocado will get you plenty of good fats for fullness and energy.

woman holding a fancy beverage

5. Hydrate with refreshing mocktails. Mardi Gras is known for plenty of drinking—but too much alcohol is bad for our health. Instead of over-doing it, try swapping your to-go cocktail with a refreshing non-alcoholic mocktail, sparkling water, or herbal iced tea instead.

6. Make brown rice your base. Whether you’re cooking up some Red Beans and Rice or Grandma’s Famous Gumbo, be sure to use brown rice as your base. It’s packed with more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than white rice, which will help you stay full longer and give you plenty of energy for all day dancing.

No matter what you decide to do this year—keep it healthy or live it up—it’s good to know you have options for how to celebrate the season. Have fun, stay safe, and laissez les bons temps rouler! We’ll see you out there!

To learn more about healthy lifestyle choices, schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers.

Sharla BootheSharla Boothe is the Lead Clinical Dietitian at University Medical Center New Orleans. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, and serves on the board of the local affiliate, the New Orleans Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Additionally, she is a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician, and is a member of the American Society for Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition. She earned her Master of Science degree from University of Southern Mississippi. Originally from New Orleans, she has lived in southern Mississippi and central Louisiana prior to making her way back to the city that instilled a passion for good food! Outside of nutrition, her biggest passion is a love for animals. She also enjoys finding new and fun ways to incorporate physical activity – some favorites have been biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, and yoga with baby kangaroos.