My Days at the Races: The Derby Diet

Weekend events, special occasions, work trips or holiday weekends are always challenging when it comes to eating. Even I, whose job is to be healthy, have a difficult time at this, so it becomes a lesser of evil, do your best with the worst experience.

The first weekend of May, I was corresponding for the Kentucky Derby for NBC. I flew from a business trip in California to Kentucky which was challenging in itself. Being on airplanes, not sleeping and not having your own kitchen is one thing. Add to that 130k drunk people at the races, a rigorous schedule and nighttime parties and you have a challenge.

First of all, start off the best way you can. My schedule didn't allow to stop for mealtimes. NBC provided a snack basket, so I immediately determined the best choice and told it to my assistant and publicist. The packages of 6 wheat crackers with cheddar cheese beat out the sugary granola bars, chips, and candy. Although there are way more complicated ingredients than I care for, the crackers are wheat, the portion and calories is reasonable (230 cals) and most importantly the cheese has protein. One of the 2 pack granola bars combined with a handful of nuts would provide similar value. I had a few starbursts because nobody is perfect and snacks were the small dark chocolate bars with nuts, 2 of the dangerous Oreos or troublesome cookies. These aren't ideal, but choosing one to 2 small sweet snacks isn't horrendous.

Weekends like this often come with sugary signature cocktails. Until my skinnygirl margarita launches in liquor stores in June (, deal with what you have. If you foresee drinking more than one drink, follow my clear liquor or wine rule and make my skinnygirl recipes. If you don't feel like dealing with custom orders, have one of your sugary cocktails and savor it. I enjoyed one mint julep per day at the track and loved it. Nothing is forbidden, but the old me would have had three.

Sleep is crucial. Compare the consequences of a night out with a nice calm dinner or room service and a good night's sleep. Lack of sleep makes you crave junk food for comfort.
This derby consisted of a fun, packed day at the track with a one stop evening and in bed by 1 am. I am so thankful on that final day.

As for room service meals or fattening food options, just have a little bit of what you love. Eating cheese and crackers made me want a good Sunday night meal. I had already invested in 2 chocolate covered Oreos, a sliver of cheesecake and a mint julep, so my sugar moment needed to end. Protein was essential. With that, I had a scoop of the chicken and cheese off the nachos, some more chicken from my cobb salad and a spoonful of chili. I'm not winning awards, but I had what I wanted in reasonable quantities.

Lunch had been vegetables and salad, so now it was protein time. Make your diet a puzzle and fill in what you're missing. Net net: have fun, sleep well, don't go overboard, and deal with the situation at hand.