Tips offer healthy options for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations

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This coming Monday, March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day – a time for celebrating St. Patrick, wearing green and lots of good food friendship and frolic.

When we lived in Chicago, watching them pour orange dye (yes, orange colored crystals) into the Chicago River and the river turning green was a great part of the Big St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Chicago has the largest number of Irish people outside of Ireland so the St Patrick’s Day Parade and festivities were great. As you prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, may you enjoy a bit of the Irish. Here are some healthy nutritional tips for the day.

Healthy nutritional tips for St. Patrick’s Day

On March 17, many people commemorate the death of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, by wearing green and decorating with shamrocks. There are many traditional foods and drinks that accompany a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Some foods and drinks are healthier than others; knowing a few facts about each may help you make the most nutritious eating decisions on St. Patrick’s Day.

Eat corned beef in moderation

One of the most common foods eaten on St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef. While a small 3-oz. serving of corned beef will supply about 15 grams of protein, as well as some iron and zinc, corned beef can be quite high in fat and sodium. One 3-oz. serving of corned beef contains a little over 16 grams of fat and 964 milligrams of sodium.

If you choose to enjoy corned beef as part of your St. Patrick’s Day celebration, control your serving size and amount so you do not eat more fat and salt than what is part of a nutritious meal.

Load up on cabbage

Cabbage almost always accompanies corned beef as part of a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. Eating plenty of vegetables is a nutritious way to maintain your health, and loading up on cabbage will provide many important nutrients. A half cup of cooked cabbage has only 17 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. The same serving of cabbage supplies 1.4 grams of fiber and 147 milligrams of potassium. Cabbage also contains calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin K.

Drink in moderation

Alcohol has a starring role in many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and can be enjoyed as part of a nutritious diet as long as you stop after one drink if you are female or two drinks if you are male.

The Mayo Clinic states that moderate amounts of alcohol may benefit your health, but drinking too much can lead to many health problems, including heart damage.

One drink is equal to 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of spirits like whiskey or rum. Drink plenty of water when drinking alcohol.

Restrict green food coloring

According to some studies, food dyes can be dangerous and may even cause allergic reactions. It is recommended that we cut back on foods with lots of colored frosting or different colors. Green 3 dye is a potential carcinogen, but is not used in many products outside of candy and beverages. Blue and yellow dyes may also be used to create a vibrant green color for foods such as candy, baked goods, desserts and beverages. Enjoy one green treat and pass on the rest.

This information was shared by the Mayo Clinic: Alcohol Use: If You Drink, Keep It Moderate; March 2011; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): Beef, Cured, Corned Beef, Brisket, Cooked, and Cabbage, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt                 

Fight the fat

Here are some ideas for how to celebrate in true Irish style without too much guilt:

• Get in a good workout before you go out to eat.

• Eat less and lighter foods.

• Or host your own party. Serve a platter of veggies (1 cup of carrots, celery, cauliflower is only 100 calories and .5 grams of fat. Include low-fat dip, baked chips, and buffalo chicken strips instead of buffalo wings and you reduce the calories and fat more.

According to San Diego State University, working out after a meal can prolong your feeling of fullness. Studies showed that people who exercised after they ate maintained lower hunger levels for  5 hours after the meal than when they exercised before eating.  Plan accordingly!

Have a healthy, happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Grace Angotti is Carroll Co. Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to gangotti@uky.edu.