We’re just days out from St. Patrick’s Day and whether you are Irish or not, chances are you have some type of Irish feast planned. While surveying members at The Wellness Center we found most people planned to have a boiled dinner, Sheppard’s pie, Rueben sandwiches and one claimed they take their kids to get a shamrock shake each year on the special day. Whether you are planning to slow boil your corned beef this year or just planning to drink your calories, you might want to think about how you can burn off all the Irish fuel.

While Irish foods make us feel that sense of nostalgia we crave around certain holidays, they can also leave you feeling a little bloated and blah. Most meals are pretty heavy in fats and carbohydrates along with a hefty side of salt and maybe alcohol. A perfect storm to leave you feeling “Irish I didn’t eat that.” Have no fear; we have the stats on how you burn off all those extra calories faster than you can say Erin Go Bragh.

Boiled dinner seems to be coming in as the most popular meal around St. Pats. Its economical, it feeds a large group and almost always lends itself to some leftovers. What’s in that big pot of yummy heaven? Typically it’s a large slab of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots and onions. According to www.sparkpeople.com one serving of this meal comes in at about 660 calories. If you know you are loading your plate with more than 4 oz. (think a deck of cards) of meat and more than one potato your plate may be coming in at more than 1000 calories. But what’s grabbing us at our suspenders is the sodium! Almost 1500 mgs of salt which is about ideal for most adults…in one day! This doesn’t mean you have to skip this annual feast but think twice before adding any extra salt to your meal. Other options are rinsing your brisket extra well and seasoning with other herbs and spices rather than loads of extra salt. Whenever you eat a lot of salt we always recommend drinking lots of extra water and trying to get in a good sweat! A moderate meal of boiled dinner is about an hour and a half of pretty vigorous exercise or 45 minutes of very intense exercise. If you are more into an Irish stroll around town, better keep it at least 6 miles for that one serving.  Missing the gym yet?

If your go to is Sheppard’s pie you have already cut your calories and sodium in half compared to the boiled dinner, but this is still a high-fat meal. With 4 calories per gram of fat and about 20 grams of fat per cup of this warm bowl of goodness, that’s 80 calories a cup you might want to consider sweating off. It’s actually not that bad! After a bowl of meat and mashed potatoes, it’s a great idea to get moving anyway! Use that energy to walk a couple of miles, take a spin class or do a workout video at home. You’ll have some primo energy from your meal and you can burn it off easy peasy, Irish squeezy.

Shamrock shakes seem to get everyone excited. Is that minty burst of flavor or does this frosty shake have us thinking spring? Whatever it is, if you are indulging in these shakes you might want to “shake” too, in fact you may want to shake it at one Zumba class per small shake. If you are taking on that large shake at over 800 calories, be mindful. Adding just an extra 800 twice a week for a month could result in a couple of pounds gained just by the end of March. Shamrock shakes are pretty low on nutritional value and very high in calories, sugar and fat. We always think it’s a good idea to have one, better yet share one and move on. You had it, it was as great as you remembered but really will more than one be that good? Or try making a healthier version at home. You can mix low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt at home with mint extract for a somewhat healthier shake. Or go super green and mix water, spinach, vanilla protein powder and mint extract for a super nutrient rich dense shake. With a small over 500 calories and a large over 800, keep in mind you’d have to ride a bike 3 miles per 100 calories if you wanted to burn it off. Who has time for that?

Indulging once a year in a nostalgic meal shouldn’t make or break your fitness and nutrition goals but overindulging for several days, weeks or the whole month certainly can. If you know you’ve been overeating and that isn’t in line with how you want to look or feel, start cleaning and lightening up your diet and get moving! Exercise not only burns off those extra calories but it releases those feel-good endorphins to keep you motivated too, talk about luck of the Irish!  This St. Patrick’s Day may have you filled to the brim and even saying, “Irish I was at the gym!”