Irish Flag - Photo Independence Bunting
Irish Flag – Photo Independence Bunting

By Alexandra Porricelli, Registered Dietitian, Nuvance Health

WESTPORT–Keeping your health top of mind while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to be difficult. There are more ways than ever to eat healthy and stay active while you wear green. Here are some healthy ways you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day that don’t require the luck of the Irish, including a fun and healthy shamrock shake recipe!    

Practice good nutrition 

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun time of the year filled with lots of eating and drinking, but it’s important to remember that what you eat and drink can play a role in your overall health. Laura Nahin, a Registered Dietitian at Nuvance Health Norwalk Hospital thinks it’s OK to enjoy traditional St. Patrick’s Day foods but there are ways to make them healthier. “Lean on the healthier side,” Nahin said, “mashed potatoes can be made using milk and olive oil instead of butter.”

Nahin said consider other healthy options in place of traditional St. Patrick’s Day meals such as sautéed chicken sausage and cabbage or sautéed root vegetables with olive oil and herbs.

“Cabbage has a ton of antioxidants, and trying a variation of Shepard’s pie made vegan or plant-forward can be done by substituting ground beef with sautéed lentils which will make the dish healthy without sacrificing all the flavor,” Nahin said.  

When it comes to baking Irish soda bread, she recommends using unsweetened applesauce in place of oil which will cut calories and fat from the recipe. Nahin said to choose a recipe that uses whole wheat flour to increase nutrient content and fiber.

Learn more about the Metabolic Medical Weight Loss Program at Nuvance Health.

When choosing foods to eat on St. Patrick’s Day, try including more vegetables such as leafy greens on your plate. Vegetables such as spinach and kale are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. Limit sodium intake with healthier alternatives to corned beef and cabbage. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, traditional corned beef and cabbage contains over 982 mg of sodium and 116 mg of cholesterol in just one four ounce serving. Westporters can get their healthy vegetable fix as well as find vegan options at Little Beet.

If you plan on making your St. Patrick’s Day meal at home, Nahin said there is more than enough inspiration to get you cooking up some healthy spins on holiday classics. 

“Try marinating salmon in Irish whiskey and honey prior to cooking or serving with traditional Irish veggies like root vegetables or healthy roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic,” Nahin said.

Instead of a traditional corned beef recipe, try melding those flavors that are normally used with corned beef, such as bay leaf, black peppercorn, mustard seed and coriander, and adding to chicken with grilled cabbage on the side. 

Shamrock Shake - Photo Wakeman Town Farm
Shamrock Shake – Photo Wakeman Town Farm

Shamrock Shake recipe  

-1 cup plant-based milk (soy is preferable for protein content)

-1 frozen banana

-2 dried, pitted dates

– ½ fresh avocado

– Handful of fresh mint leaves (at least 10) 

– Chocolate chips on top for garnish 

– Ice as needed

Blend in a high-powered blender and enjoy!

Learn more about nutrition counseling at Nuvance Health.

Balance portions

No matter what the occasion, it’s always important to have a balanced plate. If you’re excited to eat some corned beef and cabbage and not interested in trying alternatives, just be sure to balance your plate with healthier portions of vegetables. Load your plate up with salad or a steamed vegetable such as carrots and consider putting less corned beef on your plate and not having seconds. Nahin said eating in moderation is key to enjoying holiday fare.    

Drink responsibly 

St. Patrick’s Day is a time to gather with loved ones and celebrate, but it’s important to practice moderation when it comes to drinking. If you plan to drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Too much alcohol can be harmful to your overall health. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water and know your limits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s dietary guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking of alcohol is considered 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women. If you are taking medications and are unsure if you can drink alcohol, speak to your doctor. 

Nahin suggests hydrating with electrolytes prior to a night out of drinking and making sure to have a full, nourishing meal beforehand. “It’s a good idea to choose drinking in moderation. Try having one drink as a celebration – choosing an Irish coffee or putting a little Bailey’s in your after-dinner coffee or black tea,” she said. 

Never drink and drive! Don’t test your luck, plan to have a designated driver or arrange for a ride-share service to bring you home. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during the 2020 St. Patrick’s Day period from 6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18, more than a third (36%) of crash fatalities involved a drunk driver. From 2016 to 2020, 287 people were killed because of drunk-driving crashes during the St. Patrick’s Day period. 

Learn more about behavioral health at Nuvance Health.

Stay active!

Participate in a local St. Patrick’s Day parade with family and friends. You can also join a St. Patrick’s Day walk or run to stay active and burn calories. Westporters can join in on some St. Patrick’s Day festivities at CLUB203 Wednesday, March 13 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Westport. Enjoy green-themed fun, food, and festivities – including an Irish step dance performance by the Lenihan Dance Troop.

Many St. Patrick’s Day activities are also available exclusively for children. Westporters can get their little ones involved in the St. Patty’s Day Cooking Course for kids at Wakeman Town Farm.  

Wakeman Town Farm Event Director Christy Colasurdo said the course offers children an opportunity to learn about nutrition while having fun by putting a unique and healthier spin on some classic St. Patrick’s Day foods such as a ‘Shamrock Shake’ made with avocado. Colasurdo said children will also make mini Shepard’s pies with lean ground beef and diced vegetables as well as Irish Soda Bread. 

“We gear our menus toward tasty and seasonal items, and what is fresh on the farm and in the markets, and we use the holidays as a time to celebrate seasonal foods in a fun way. Our classes are an introduction to the kitchen, and include cooking, baking, measuring, knife skills, science, and exploring some of the mysteries of cooking,” Colasurdo said. “At the end of each class, we come together at the table and discuss what we made, whether we tasted the ingredients we used in the recipes, and where our food came from. It is a great opportunity to share a meal and conversation!”  

The bottom line: While it may be challenging to stick to a healthy diet during holidays, you don’t need the luck of the Irish to maintain a balanced approach to eating healthy. Enjoy your holiday food in moderation and have fun with loved ones! Use the holiday to establish new, healthier traditions for you and your family. Raise a pint to good health and enjoy a delicious, nutritious meal with your loved ones! Sláinte!

Editor’s note:

Alexandra Porricelli is a Registered Dietitian and contractor for Nuvance Health, Norwalk Hospital.

Laura Nahin is a Registered Dietitian and contractor for Nuvance Health, Norwalk Hospital.

Note: Nuvance Health has sponsored this content for Westport Journal. Nuvance Health is a system of nonprofit hospitals, medical practices and outpatient healthcare services throughout the Hudson Valley and western Connecticut, including nearby Norwalk Hospital. Visit nuvancehealth.org for more information.

Sources: