This post was written by Haley Hall .

As a long-time Austinite and music lover, I’m anxiously awaiting Austin City Limits Music Festival. For those of you don’t know, ACL is a 3-day music festival in the heart of Austin. More than 140 bands play on 8 stages. It is complete chaos and tons of fun if you’re willing to endure the Texas heat and masses of people. At ACL and other similar music festivals, it can be difficult (but not impossible) to eat in a way that promotes your health goals and makes your body feel great. Let’s break it down. 

Let me start by saying that one weekend is not going to make or break your weight or health related goals. You don’t have to go into the festival planning to eat only salads and fruit or resort to grass and leaves when the line at the smoothie bar is too long. On the flip side, if your body is used to clean food and you flush down your burger with beer before some fried chicken, your body is not going to feel great and you might have to stand in the back with a stomach ache. So my goal here is to give you some middle ground; to offer some lighter options and help you approach the fun and delicious food selection with a dose of moderation.  

Eat well before arriving. Gates don’t open until 11am, so you definitely have time for breakfast beforehand, and maybe lunch too. I recommend a clean yet hearty meal, like a classic 2 egg breakfast, to get your day started. Incorporate fruits or veggies, since those might be harder to come by in the park. Pro tip: I always eat breakfast (usually oatmeal, peanut butter and banana) when I wake up and then pack a sandwich to eat for lunch on my walk into the park. 
Pack snacks. Okay, so snacks might not technically be allowed, but I’ve never had a granola bar or apple pulled out of my bag. They seem to be more concerned about fake binoculars with whiskey inside. Having a few snacks will help stave off hunger and keep your energy high throughout the day. This will make it much easier to make conscious food choices at mealtimes. I recommend packing bars (like Lara Bars or RX Bars), apples, beef jerky or trail mix. 
Hydrate. It’s going to be hot out there. Even on a typical day, most people need at least 64 ounces (2 Liters) of water to stay hydrated. For some, that number is closer to 128 ounces. The Austin heat, a few beers and salty food increase your need for water during the fest. I recommend shooting for a minimum of 3-4 Liters of water each day. Also, avoid using alcohol for hydration. Though it tastes refreshing on a hot day, it is actually a diuretic and contributes to dehydration. Consider alternating alcohol and water 2-to-1: drink 2 glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. This will also save you money! You’re allowed to bring in 2 factory sealed water bottles and/or a reusable water bottle. They have a few water stations throughout the park where you can quickly refill your water bottle for free.

Scope out the food selection. The food lineup at ACL Eats is basically as impressive as the music. Many Austin favorites set up shop and offer a few of their top selling menu items. Once you arrive and before you’re starving, head over to ACL eats to scope out the selection. Choose a few things that you’d like to try throughout the weekend, and remember you don’t have to eat it all in one meal. Allow yourself the freedom to consider what sounds good and enjoy it, but keep tabs on how your body feels. If you’re full, pass off the last few bites to a friend, or just stop and remind yourself there is more delicious food ahead. If you can tell you’re in need of a lighter meal, they are available. You can grab a smoothie from JuiceLand, a veggie burger or a simple taco. 
Whether you’re heading to Austin City Limits next month or to one of the other countless music festivals throughout the country, have fun! Maybe I’ll see you out there.

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