You know it is almost St. Patrick’s Day when McDonald’s starts advertising the return of its highly anticipated Shamrock Shake and stores start changing their decor to highlight different shades of green. After a long, seemingly never-ending winter, March 17 brings a rush of excitement, not only for the celebration of the patron saint of Ireland, but for the feeling that spring weather is upon us.
St. Patrick’s Day is full of tradition: parades, leprechauns, shamrocks, and corned beef and cabbage, just to name a few. But don’t use the celebration as an excuse to forget all the healthy habits we vowed to make when that ball dropped in Times Square just a few short months ago!
Give yourself a push to get your daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The latest dietary guidelines from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion recommend 1 ½ -2 cups of fruit and 2 ½-3 cups of vegetables per day for the average adult. It is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, which is why the guidelines also recommend at least 1-2 cups of dark green vegetables per week. Dark green vegetables include broccoli, spinach, bok choy, kale and turnips. So, fill up half of that St. Patrick’s Day plate with green fruits and vegetables!
Here are some ideas on how you can think green this St. Patrick’s Day and make some healthy swaps.
1) CELEBRATING AT THE PUB: Hanging out with friends and family drinking beer is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for many. Alcohol is full of empty calories, meaning when we drink alcohol we are taking in a lot of calories without much nutritional benefit. Dietary guidelines recommend that alcohol be limited to one drink/day for women and two drinks/day for men for those who do not need to abstain from alcohol completely.
THINK GREEN SWAP: Many communities put on active events such as 5K runs to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Get your family and friends together, sport the green garb and make new physically active traditions.
2) CELEBRATING WITH THE SHAMROCK SHAKE: Many cannot wait for that minty green shake to reappear on the McDonald’s menu. Little do they know that a 12 oz. Shamrock Shake contains 530 calories, 15 grams of fat and 73 grams of sugar!
THINK GREEN SWAP: Make your own sweet treat, such as a minty fruit salad featuring green fruits for the holiday or a green smoothie. In making your own treats you can control what goes in them. Create a St. Patrick’s Day-inspired treat that not only satisfies your sweet tooth, but also provides the nutrients of fruits and vegetables. Try a smoothie with Greek yogurt, your favorite fruit and a few spinach or kale leaves.
3) CELEBRATING WITH CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE: Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional dish often prepared in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, corned beef is high in saturated fat and sodium, and if consumed in large amounts may have negative affects on heart health. Cabbage is actually a healthy vegetable high in fiber and nutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. The problem comes in the cooking. Many prepare the cabbage using butter and salt, which can counteract its nutritional value.
THINK GREEN SWAP: Steam cabbage so there is no need for added fat and calories from cooking! If you do plan on eating corned beef, remember to do so in moderation—one 3 oz. portion of corned beef (about the size of a deck of cards) contains 16 grams of fat and 827 milligrams of sodium.
When March 17 rolls around this year, take the opportunity to celebrate with friends and family in a safe and healthy way. Think green… nutrition and health!