Not-So-Fat-Tuesday: Healthy Mardi Gras Tips from Biggest Loser’s Heba

heba and edToday’s guest author is Heba Salama. You’ll remember Heba, and her husband Ed Brantley, from Biggest Loser season six, during which they lost a combined total of 277 pounds. Heba became the first woman to win the at-home prize for the highest percentage of weight lost amongst all contestants eliminated during the game; Ed finished in second place. In addition to continuing to lead as examples in the fitness realm, the couple has been busily working on a new healthy cookbook due to release spring 2024 and has embarked on a fitness campaign for 2024. Learn more at

Let’s face it: any celebration is cause to hit the “diet pause button.” The simple word “celebration” usually denotes lots of calories just by reading it. But a celebration with the actual title “Fat Tuesday” must mean double trouble, or double chin. If I have learned one thing since being in the real world after The Biggest Loser, it’s definitely that none of these things have to be the case. I started to think about healthier ways to eat a King Cake. I turned to my husband, the chef, and his suggestion: make sure you run for 18 hours, and then you have earned yourself a piece. Thanks, honey. But for those of us looking for more realistic options, here are my top five tips for turning this into a great holiday you won’t feel guilty about!

mardi gras1. Pick your Poison. Before you go out for your celebration, make a conscious decision and choose to either indulge by having a few cocktails OR having a few higher calorie food items. The combination of choosing both will be what gets you into “trouble.” A great low calorie “mocktail” option is club soda, lime and a splash of cranberry juice- you will never even miss the booze!

2. Make it a Progressive Dinner. Invite your neighborhood friends to join you in the celebrations by organizing a Mardi Gras-themed progressive dinner. Each house has a different dish with Cajun roots, and the group travels by foot from house to house to enjoy the food and festivities. Who says you can’t get a little exercise while at a dinner party?

3. Clean-up the Street Fair Foods. Always popular around Mardi Gras are the street vendors with their fried, sugary and high calorie treats. Our favorite remake? The healthy moon pie:

  • 1 Low Calorie Graham Cracker (chocolate or regular flavor)
  • ½ sliced banana
  • 2 tbsp Low Calorie Whipped Topping

Break graham cracker in half and spread whipped topping. Cover with sliced bananas and top with other half of cracker.  Wrap in festive colored plastic wrap and leave in freezer 2-4 hours…enjoy with out the guilt!

4. Run a Race.  This may be leaning towards Ed’s suggestion of running for 18 hours to earn some authentic King Cake, but my first official trip NOLA will be to run my very first (of many) half marathons! Check out the site and get going!

5. Make Healthy Swaps.  These are some of our favorite healthy takes on or swaps for traditional Fat Tuesday fare:

  • Jambalaya made with skinless chicken breast, turkey sausage and shrimp- all the flavor and a lot less of the fat!
  • Seafood Etoufee sans roux. Sounds fancy, right? Roux is a French word and is a flour mixture used to thicken dishes.  You can make a traditional seafood etoufee without the roux by serving the crawfish, shrimp and crab broiled or boiled over brown rice, but with all of the spice!
  • The Ultimate King Cake Swap: Angel food cake with frozen whipped topping made in all the right colors! To make it a layered cake simply slice the cake in half, spread whipped topping down the middle, restack and keep cool until ready to serve. Then allow your guests to decorate…don’t forget to hide the traditional “baby” in the cake!
  • Good old seafood boil. Fill up your pot with clams, turkey sausage, shrimp, crawfish, corn and all the spices you can handle for the best and healthiest broil you have ever tasted…so much fun too!

This year, Mardi Gras takes place on February 16.

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