Lightening up Lent

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New Orleans is famous for its cuisine, especially seafood. During lent there is even more of an emphasis on eating local seafood since crawfish season is just getting started; however, from a nutrition standpoint, there are a few challenges to navigating this part of the year. Friday fish frys, weekend crawfish boils, and local food festivals can result in an excess intake of high calorie food and beverages. Here are three Lenten tips to help keep you on track to meeting your health and fitness goals:

1. Skip the fish fry. Instead, cook at home on Friday by grilling or baking your favorite seafood. This will help save significantly on fat and calories because you can control the ingredients and portions. For an easy grilled shrimp idea, try this recipe.

2. Embrace Spring vegetables. Try more meatless meals that showcase the flavor and color of seasonal produce. Pair cabbage, spinach, or collard greens with beans and your favorite whole grain for an entire plant-based meal high in fiber. Alternatively, make a homemade spring vegetable pizza using smaller sized whole wheat pita bread topped with mushrooms, spinach, and onions.

3. Be mindful of alcoholic beverages. Ice cold beer is usually paired with a seafood boil on a warm spring day. Be careful not to let crawfish boils and family cookouts turn into all day drinking affairs. Most light beers on average contain 100 calories per 12 oz., however, other varieties with a higher percentage of alcohol can contain upwards of 200 calories. Also, spring/summer themed alcoholic beverages can contain a lot of unnecessary added sugars. If you do decide to consume alcohol, make sure to not skip or delay eating while drinking, which can cause overeating later in the day. Also, bring your own lower calorie versions of drinks to the party. If you think you might have more than one drink, alternate with water or another type of unsweetened beverage.

— Michael Sandoz, MS, RD, LDN, CDE