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Practical Ways to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Celebrating a diabetes-friendlier Mardi Gras

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

Laissez les bon temps rouler! That means “let the good times roll” and is one of the traditional sayings of New Orleans and Mardi Gras. Today is officially Mardi Gras and while New Orleans may be the epicenter of Mardi Gras merriment, there will certainly be people celebrating around the country.

There’s no doubt that Mardi Gras is one of the days on the calendar that is all about fun and festivities. Cities like New Orleans and St. Louis, however, take the celebration to a higher level with parades, beads and rich foods.

History of Mardi Gras

In case you’re not up-to-date on how it came about, here’s a quick history on Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” and speaks to the tradition of eating rich, more fattening foods before the Lenten season. In the U.S., the holiday has been celebrated in what was French Louisiana since the late 1600s. New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners.

The holiday has evolved into one that is full of activity and lots of indulging. According to a 2011 FastCompany Magazine article, 1.2 million people attended Carnival events in New Orleans in 2010 and, in 2009, 7 of 10 people in the U.S. supported the idea of Mardi Gras becoming a national holiday. This probably means there will be plenty of you celebrating as well. So here are a few things to keep in mind to help make the most of your celebration.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

The name of the day is Fat Tuesday, so it’s easy to want to overdo it on Mardi Gras, but that doesn’t mean you should approach it with disregard for your health. Remember that moderation is important, no matter how good those beignets look. The American Diabetes Association has some helpful tips for celebrating holidays that apply to many occasions, including Mardi Gras. A couple key things to remember:

  • Focus on the parades, games and enjoying friends instead of food and drink.
  • Mardi Gras usually includes lots of yummy desserts like king cake and beignets which can tempt you to stray away from your health goals. Give yourself options by bringing your own homemade treats to the party.
  • Slow it down. It’s good to remember to enjoy your food. And, if you do choose to have some king cake, take time to enjoy each bite – think quality, not quantity.
  • Overindulgence can happen to the best of us. Have an emergency plan in place just in case! Keep necessary items handy and be sure to inform companions about warning signs and remedies for highs and lows.

As I mentioned in our St. Patrick’s Day post last year, there are also certain things those living with diabetes need to be mindful of if consuming alcohol. Many may seem like common sense, but it is helpful information that could even be shared with those celebrating with you. The American Diabetes Association also has some useful tips for alcohol consumption. Remember, drink only when and if your blood sugar is under control.

It’s also smart to prepare for individual emergencies. Large crowds at these various celebrations can increase your chances of being separated from your group, so wearing medical ID jewelry is also suggested.

And, to those who will be going out to celebrate, now is probably a good time to remind you of all the extra walking you may be doing. Be sure to check your blood sugars regularly given the additional activity, food and drink you may experience. If you have specific questions about your food or drink choices or preparedness steps, take the time to consult with your healthcare professional before the celebrations begin.

To those in New Orleans (and other cities) heading out to celebrate, have a fantastic time! I know I’d love to be watching the parade go by with you. If you have fun ways you celebrate Mardi Gras or are planning on attending any celebrations, we’d love to hear about them in our comments below.

Happy Mardi Gras,

Laura K.

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