By Nancy Gay
It’s Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, a day when people typically eat anything they want the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a long fasting period for Christians.
Despite its name, Fat Tuesday doesn’t mean giving up that New Year’s resolution to get in shape. While it may be tempting to reach for that second piece of King Cake, try celebrating by eating foods that fall in line with traditional Carnival colors:
- Purple - Grapes, eggplant, purple cabbage, plums, figs
- Green - Broccoli, spinach, kale, avocado, lettuce, cucumbers, celery, collard greens
- Gold - Corn, squash, yellow peppers
Moffitt nurse Frances Sahebzamani says these colorful fruits and vegetables have phytochemicals that protect against many diseases, including cancer. Beneficial compounds such as lycopene, resveratrol, carotene, sulforaphane and anthocyanin are packed in plant food with bright colors and strong odors.
Observing Ash Wednesday by not eating meat doesn’t mean missing out on protein. Moffitt dietitian Kate Allen recommends eating dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu and legumes as a good source of protein. She says protein is an important part of a healthy diet because it helps increase a feeling of fullness, or satiety.
Like protein, fiber also increases satiety. Allen suggests eating 21 to 38 grams per day depending on your gender and age. Fiber sources include legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Though Fat Tuesday is often a day of indulgence, Allen recommends practicing intuitive eating and hunger cues, which means not waiting until you are starving to eat. She advises drinking a glass of water if you recently had a meal or snack and still feel hungry. Try waiting 20 minutes before reaching for a second helping. If you’re still hungry after 20 minutes, have a snack such as a tablespoon of peanut butter on celery or half an apple.
Along with the traditional Fat Tuesday foods, many celebrate with alcohol. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting alcoholic drinks to two per day for men and one for women. Better yet, replace alcohol and sugary drinks with flavored seltzer water, fruit-infused water, coffee or tea.
With all of the celebrations and parades, it’s also easy to get thrown off your normal sleep schedule. Moffitt experts recommend getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night because lack of sleep can lead to hormone imbalances and you may find yourself reaching for sweets or sugary drinks in an attempt to increase your energy levels throughout the day.
Incorporating even one of these simple tips can help you enjoy Mardi Gras without all the guilt.