May 18 2015

Conscious Palate: Fest Dining

By: Jhesika Menes

whereyat_com-1366041165516c224d87e62.png DEFENSIVE FESTIVAL DINING

Trying to eat healthy during festival season?

Yeah, good luck, say most of you. But I am going to let you know just how successful you can be during this vulnerable time of year in sticking to your diet's constitution.

There are easy ways to get what suits your nutritional requirements and tickles the taste buds without overloading on the bad stuff in the festival arena. Keeping up with the ingredients and the dressings may be your more valuable arms in defense if you are a fl y-by-the-seat-of-your-pants dieter, but for those that are locked into a regimen, sifting through the pros and cons will keep you in good standing with the scale.

As with any diet, the balance bars lie parallel to the important intake of protein and action of exercise. Limitations should be placed on carbohydrates, which become sugars when processed. You want to make sure you are always ingesting a lot more protein than carbohydrates. When the body gets hungry for energy, the first place it will resort to pulling reserve amounts from is muscle tissue. Despite what most fad diets promote, the body never utilizes reserve fat deposits for energy before it will deplete muscle, as there is no energy value to adipose tissue (fat). The body sends the brain the message that it needs "fuel," and so the brain first goes to the stomach for food. If there is nothing in the tank, the next stop is straight to the muscles. This is why people who suffer from eating disorders face a very grim end result. The breakdown of muscle causes rhabdomyolysis, which releases toxic myoglobin to the bloodstream and kidneys.

Throughout the day, you lose about 15 to 20% of your organ's functioning potential every two to four hours. When you wake, you have 100% organ function, making breakfast the most important meal of the day. Between the hours of 6 and 10 am, it is acceptable to take in all the carbs and sugars you like. Every two hours after, eating something like a small salad with 1 ounce of protein will trick the body into feeling full and offer the protein required for energy. Always having a little protein in the stomach helps keep muscles at their maximum potential and aids in dehydration of the adipose tissue. Moral of the story: it is important to maximize your protein intake and lower carb and sugar intake as the day progresses.

In relation to festival dining, being smart about the choices you make is your safest bet. When going against the average sugary daiquiri, lean towards a vodka or clear liquor drink with fresh fruit juices instead. Want that po-boy loaded with high fat proteins and heavy mayonnaise? Go for a leaner option with a less fatty content. Understanding that with every sliced avocado, large onion ring, and spread of regular mayo, you add at least 100 calories to your meal, will assist in healthier decision-making. It is okay to have some carbs if you must, but be on the lookout for lightly battered fried foods in relation to heavily breaded items. Taqueria Corona's fried fish tacos were a big hit at last year's Jazz Fest. Pieces of perfectly fried fish, with spicy tartar sauce and shredded purple cabbage in a fl our tortilla, are loaded with flavor and quite satisfying.

Bennachin has made a tasty impression on festival attendees for quite some time. The African cuisine is heavy-handed in vegetables and offers a variety of hearty proteins. Dishes like the Baham veggies sauteed in ginger, onion and garlic sauce served with rice or couscous, and the Domoda, a beef and peanut stew served with rice will make you wish Africa was across a smaller pond.

Ba Mien Vietnamese Cuisine provided healthy options for Fest-goers last year with their Vietnamese spring rolls, egg rolls, and bun (vermicelli with shrimp or beef). Lighter appetizer-sized portions containing high vegetable content are always a great option, and you can add fl avor with light sauces rather than loads of grease and cheese. Asian and Pacific cuisines are well-known for rice- and veggie-based meals, making them a nice consideration while at the Fair Grounds.

The Jumbo Peanut Company had their fresh roasted jumbo peanuts in tow, and while the sugary glazed variety isn't the best choice, the dry-roasted, lightly salted nuts will provide an ample dose of necessary protein and leave you satiated. Another festival snack item that is a wonderful go-to is popcorn, but stay away from sticky-sweet kettle corn if you can.

J&M Seafood, with their freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell, presented the perfect diet-friendly dining option at Jazz Fest '12. Talk about filling and nutritional. Seafood at the festival is about as expected as the rain. Loaded with essential amino acids, fresh seafood will keep your legs dancing, even if they are in muddy muck boots.

Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice, and while it is a positive way to live, a little cheating here and there is acceptable. When you live in this town, you have to make room for some non diet-friendly missteps and occasionally Do Whatcha Wanna.

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