• How to Have a Healthy Happy Hour

    February 18, 2011

    Last week, I received this email in my inbox:

    I have been reading your blog for almost 3 years and I absolutely love it!!  You are so down to earth!!! I have recently lost about 10-15 lbs, which is great, but I have a hard time practicing moderation, especially when alcohol is involved. What advice do you have for not over doing it on the alcohol and then over eating? This is my biggest challenge! Sometimes I feel on top of it and other times not so much!  

    As you know, I’m not one to pass up a glass of wine or ice cold beer, so I thought this reader’s question would make a good blog post. I agree, practicing moderation around alcohol is sometimes difficult, but it’s possible to enjoy a drink or two without overdoing it. Here are a few things that I keep in mind when I booze face enjoy alcohol.

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    Slow down
    I used to make a beeline straight for the bar when I arrived at a party or happy hour. I’d get carried away with the festive atmosphere and guzzle down my first drink before my friends even placed their order. That meant I was sipping down a drink before the night had really begun. I’ve read women’s magazines that suggest having one drink then sticking with seltzer for the rest of the night, but that doesn’t work for me. The first drink usually loosens me up, which means that I have a hard time turning down a refill. If it’s going to be a long night, I start with the seltzer and order my first alcoholic drink when my friends are on their second round.

    Cut yourself off before you start drinking
    Before I start boozing, I determine how many drinks I will have over the course of the evening and stick to that number. So, for instance, if I’m hanging out with friends at a bar, I’ll set my limit at two beers. Once I’ve drank them, I’m done for the night and switch to water. Of course, there are nights where this dones’t work out as planned, but having that number in mind is a good guideline fo me. All I know is that it’s much harder to turn down another drink once I’ve already had a few!

    Pick whatever you sip the slowest
    While I enjoy the occasional cocktail or beer, my go-to drink is white wine because I know I’ll savor it and sip it slowly. If I choose whatever alcohol takes me the longest to drink, I wind up saving calories and not overdoing it by passing on a second (or third or fourth) round. I also tend to order the most expensive (or second most expensive) glass of wine on the menu. I’m a cheapskate, so the price alone slows me down. Plus, it’s a lot more enjoyable to savor a really good wine than just a so-so one.

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    Think twice about juice
    I used to sip cocktails full of fruit juices or pre-made mixes (I love margaritas!), but they added tons of unneeded calories to my diet. Now I keep the juice light and look for ways to incorporate other healthy ingredients. I order my margarita on the rocks with a splash of fresh orange juice, and I skip the sour mix. (I swear, you won’t miss it!) Or I combine flavored vodka with soda water and a small splash of pomegranate juice, which gives my drink lots of flavor and healthy antioxidants without too many extra calories. And, sometimes, I just skip the fruit juice all together and order a Dirty MarTINA!

    Eat something before drinking
    If I plan to have a few drinks, I make sure to eat something substantial beforehand to prevent the late-night munchies. Usually, I have a meal with whole grains, lean protein, and some healthy fats. Even though I try to ‘save’ calories throughout the day for my alcohol splurge, I don’t skimp on the quality of my meals. Consuming a balanced meal before drinking helps keep my appetite in check.

    Schedule a workout for the next morning
    Before a night out on the town, I schedule a long run, group exercise class, or fitness date with a friend for the very next morning. So, when the temptation to down another drink hits, I remember my morning obligation. The thought of an early morning workout (especially running!) keeps me from having too many drinks!

    Don’t start snacking
    After a few drinks, I find it really tough to turn down bar snacks. In fact, post-party munching is part of what led to my weight gain after college. A favorite bar of mine serves super buttery popcorn all night long; I don’t really like popcorn, but after a few cocktails it quickly becomes my favorite food! Once I have a taste of popcorn—or pretzels, or peanuts, you name it—I can’t stop myself and end up snacking the entire night. So for me, it’s just easier not to start. When I get the urge to dig into that bowl of popcorn, I think of all the unwashed hands that have shared that one bowl. Yuck!

    Related posts:

    What are your secrets for enjoying alcohol in moderation?

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