Healthy Living

Tips to Stay Healthy on the Parade Route

Meredith Maxwell, M.D., M.H.A.
Tips to Stay Healthy on the Parade Route

Mardi Gras season is a time for celebration and certainly a little indulgence, but a long carnival season can certainly take a toll on our health and waist lines. There’s a reason it’s called Fat Tuesday. Many of us eat way more during Mardi Gras than the rest of the year.

What are a few things you can do to make healthy changes on the parade route?

People parade differently - some show up on the route with a tailgating/buffet style with coolers, tables and BBQ pits and some just bring what they can fit in their pockets.

  • If you do have a heat source such as a grill or warmer, throw some leaner meats and veggies on the grill such as chicken and shrimp kabobs.
  • If you have access to a warming source like a crock-pot keep it full of filling foods such as a healthier chili (made with lean ground beef and beans) or a healthier red beans and brown rice.
  • If you plan to bring a cooler, make healthy sandwiches in advance, cut fresh fruit and vegetables that are easy to grab, or pick up these ready-made lunchables that kids of all ages should love.
  • Fried chicken is popular at parades. Most people tell me it's the only time of the year they eat it. If that's the case enjoy a breast without guilt but if you want a healthier selection, try a Rotisserie chicken.
  • Bring family friendly snacks. Eating healthy snacks such as nuts, cheese cubes, or fruit throughout the day can help keep your hunger in control and avoid over-eating during meal time.
  • Try veggies with dips (try dips made with Greek Yogurt & hummus instead of mayo and cream cheese).

What are some tips for combatting binge eating?

  • People have the tendency to binge since the parties last all day and into the night.
  • Keep your intake to a minimum:
  • Drink water after one piece of cake if you are still hungry.
  • Eat a salad or hearty breakfast of oatmeal before you hit the parade route, so you are less inclined to snack on junk if you’re not as hungry.
  • One of the most important keys to remember with all of this is portion control. Eat slowly and enjoy your food, but take time to listen to your body and recognize when you are full. You need fuel for your body, and high-fat, high-sugar foods don’t keep you energized for the marathon that is Mardi Gras.
  • Also, plan ahead for after the parade. Have a healthy meal prepped and ready to eat once you return home from a long day. Crockpot or leftovers. This will keep you from over indulging on foods when tired.
  • Luckily, a lot of time is also spent on your feet during the festivities – from miles of walking to hours of dancing – there is a balance to be found during parade weekend.
  • Everything you take in can be worked off through movement.

What about the drinking? How can you work off those calories?

The key here is pacing yourself. Parade days can be long and this means plenty of alcohol calories could be consumed.

  • A good rule of thumb is to have one drink, then one water, one drink, one water. This keeps you in the atmosphere yet really cuts back the calories.
  • It is also important to be aware of the high calorie offenders like daiquiris and mixed drinks with juices and sodas. Try LaCroix water as a mixer instead.
  • Also, try drinking light beer. Bud Light, Coors light and Michelob Ultra have about 100 calories.
  • If you must have a daiquiri, challenge yourself not to finish it until the end of the parade. Keep in mind a daquiri has between 1,200 and 1,600 calories.

What about king cake? It's hard to say no especially this time of year.

If you choose, enjoy a slice but be aware of portions.

  • One-inch slice (diameter of your thumb): 100 calories
    • Burn it! 25 minutes of strolling along the parade route
  • Six-inch slice (length of a dollar bill): 600 calories
    • Burn it! To offset the calories in this slab-like piece of king cake, you would need to second line for two hours.


Meredith Maxwell, M.D., M.H.A., attended the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, where she completed her family medicine residency, before joining the Touro Infirmary Health System. She is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine Diplomate.