Mardi Gras in New Orleans: How to Indulge Wisely

A trip to New Orleans during Carnival Season is always a great get together for my family and friends. One thing I wanted to share with you is how I maintain my lifestyle while visiting the Crescent City. I am sure you are wondering “How do you visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras and experience the rich food, the iconic cocktails, the renowned jazz clubs (into the wee hours of the morning) and the amazing southern culture that is NOLA, without setbacks?” Mardi Gras is all about indulgence. Mardi Gras actually means Fat Tuesday. It’s the last day of Carnival before the Christian holiday Lent begins and fasting begins. Please know,  you don’t have to decline drink and dinner invitations, but you do need to be mindful and not lose yourself in the moment… and there will be plenty.

Here are some tips to share with you on how I survive my annual Mardi Gras pilgrimage.

Workout in the morning!

I don’t care if you are tired, drank too much the night before, or ate heavy food that is weighing you down; these are all the more reasons why you should hit the gym! Yes, even on vacation you should be working out and I recommend fitting it into your morning routine. New Orleans is a bustling town, and the moment you step out of your hotel you will be inundated with parades, restaurants, bars, etc.  Even if you promise yourself to take it easy in the morning, and then workout before hitting the town at night… most will find this challenging to do. Working out in the AM will also help set a precedent for the rest of your day. Chances are if you skip your workout, you will be more inclined to pick those not so healthy choices and chalk it up as a lost day. Don’t do this! Remind yourself – as you are rolling out of bed and heading to the hotel gym, you’ll never regret a workout – it looks good on you!

Ditch the Hurricanes for a Sazerac

Cocktails and Carnival Season go hand in hand, but there are some better choices when it comes to which drink you will be consuming. Hurricanes, a New Orleans classic, will be offered anywhere you go. Keep in mind the average calorie count for a 9 oz. Hurricane is roughly 340 and the sugar content is incredibly high, thus promising a hangover the next morning. When I decide to indulge in a NOLA cocktail, I prefer the classic Sazerac. The Sazerac is as traditional as a Hurricane to New Orleans culture, yet you are only consuming about 180 calories, it’s made with higher quality spirits and designed to be sipped. And do not, under any circumstances, drink a Grenade. You will see green beverages all over Bourbon Street; I promise you it is not worth the calories!

SOS (Sauce on the Side)

SOS, you will learn this acronym quick once you realize how beneficial it will be to you and your diet. Dining out in New Orleans is a treat, and you will most likely be at restaurants more than you would be in your normal day-to-day life. Be smart about your decisions. One trick I use when I go out to eat is to ask the server to put the sauce on the side “SOS” on any dish I order. The sauce is usually where most of your less healthy ingredients live: butter, creams, oils, etc. When you ask your server for SOS you can have the option of adding a small amount to your plate, or preferably not even adding it at all. You might surprise yourself how great something can taste without the sauce – especially in NOLA, where Cajun spices reign supreme. It might even give you a whole new appreciation for a dish!

Dance on Frenchman Street

Frenchman Street is where most of the live Jazz clubs are located. I recommend heading this way to escape the craze of Bourbon Street and to experience another side of Mardi Gras! This is also a very good time to get off your chair and on your feet to the dance floor, where you might need to burn off some of those extra calories you indulged in during the day.

Drink Water

Water will be your best friend while celebrating Mardi Gras. New Orleans is humid causing you to sweat more and require more water to keep your body hydrated. It will also help ward off hangovers, a good rule to go by is that for every alcoholic drink, you should have one glass of water. Trust me on this, you and your body will thank me.

Remember, we work hard all year round, so when a fun trip to New Orleans or any other destination crosses your path, you can enjoy the culture and indulge a bit. This is not permission to fall off the wagon (or should I say parade float). You shouldn’t deprive yourself of beignets at Cafe Du Monde, but maybe consider going with a friend and sharing a plate instead of eating them all yourself. If you follow these tips, you will thank me when you return home and jump back into your daily routine!

Laissez les bon temps roulez, Cheers!