Fall is upon us! That means Halloween is right around the corner, but more importantly, Keeneland! Food is a huge part of this event, and you may even have some favorites you are waiting for! If you’re going to attend this event in person, you can still make room for your Keeneland staples in your calorie intake and stay on track to work towards your health goals! Do some research ahead of time to get some insight on what your favorite foods are composed of. However, if you’re watching the event at home, which is quite possible with the current guidelines (thanks COVID), it will be even easier to stay on track nutrition wise by getting creative and incorporating some healthier options, that are still delicious!
Let’s jump straight to the “main course”: alcohol! It’s important to note that alcohol is calorie dense when compared to protein and carbs. In fact, it has 3 more calories per gram in comparison. While you shouldn’t base everyday calorie consumption around alcohol, as it doesn’t offer many health benefits, you can make room for it within your calorie allowance for special events like Keeneland!! Use the calories from alcohol in exchange for the calories that would normally come from carbs or fat. Never sacrifice your protein needs for alcohol.
How To Track Alcohol
For example, a standard sized White Claw contains about 100 calories. Carbs and fats have 4 calories per gram. So, take those 100 calories, divide by 4, and you’ve got 25 grams (of alcohol) to track as carbs. Divide by 9 if you are going to be tracking it as a fat. Track it this way on your calorie tracking app, if you use one. Make sure to stay hydrated as well to allow your body to “detox” and stay regulated. I recommend drinking 8-16 ounces of water after every alcoholic beverage consumed! If you are going to be consuming a mixed drink, let’s say a “vodka cran”, you would track the carbs coming from the cranberry juice first as you normally would, and then take the remainder of the calories left from alcohol and divide by 4 or 9, depending on where you will be using those calories, carbs or fats.
Now for the fun part! Get creative with the snacks/apps you serve at your party! I call this task “instead of”. An easy example would be ranch dip! So instead of buying the high fat dips that are available for chips and veggies, try making a high protein, low fat version that still tastes amazing. Try using Greek yogurt as the base and adding in seasonings to obtain that familiar ranch taste. Serve this with whole grain crackers and a variety of veggies to add color to the presentation! The more appealing food looks, the more likely people are to try and enjoy it. Another example: instead of a “vodka cran” or a “screwdriver”, consider using a vodka lower in calories, like Voli Vodka. Try mixing it with water and a sugar free flavor boost, like Crystal Light or Mio.
You should always consider the source of calories! Fats are beneficial to our body in moderation, but excessive amounts are detrimental to our health. They are also the most calorie dense macronutrient, so the calories add up fast! There are so many resources available at our fingertips to find new and exciting healthy substitutes: media, new foods, and books to name a few! Use air fryers and nonstick sprays instead of frying or using heavy amounts of oils/butters to cut down on unnecessary calories.
At the end of the day, it is perfectly fine to indulge at special events. If you want a mint julep, have it! If you want cheese fries, eat them! Enjoy your time at Keeneland or watching the meet at home, and get back on track tomorrow, life is short, eat the food!