• 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.


    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.


    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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    { 95 comments… read them below or add one }

    Michelle @michellegmason.com/blog February 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Great topic. This is something I used to struggle with a lot, mostly due to peer pressure and needing to escape from stress. Luckily, with age comes a lot less pressure to get wasted every weekend, and exercise is now my go-to for stress relief :)

    I usually only drink on weekends, or 1-2 nights a week max, and I also try to plan ahead (never more than 3-4 drinks; at that amount I’m usually fine the next day, but more than that I always get a hangover), and I start with a delicious, full-bodied craft beer because that’s my favorite. I think too many women fall into the light beer trap (I know a lot of my friends do), but they’re so much less filling and so you end up drinking twice as much. After one really good IPA/lager/stout, I’m usually full, and so if I want another drink I’ll switch to vodka soda. I also always order a glass of ice water along with my beer, and will alternate drinks.


    Kim @ Imperfectly Perfect February 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Recently I haven’t had to deal too much with this issue. My boyfriend and I rarely drink and usually stick with wine. Otherwise, I have vodka and diet coke. The margarita idea sounds great though. I never thought to order it without the mix. Two drinks is usually the max for me, because it’s the most my body seems to be able to handle. Yep, I’m a light weight. I take after my mom. I guess that’s a good thing that my body just set the limit for me (and I listen to it). Like you, I usually wait until others are on their 2nd drink before I start my first. Happy Friday!! :)


    Shannon February 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I FORCE myself to workout the next morning even if the night before does get a little more “fun” than I anticipated. It may not feel the best, but it sets a precedent for the rest of the day and can be the easiest way to nip that day after headache in the bud!! The morning workout also helps me not eat total junk for the rest of the day :)


    callie February 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I’m the same way – as I always order something that takes me awhile to drink. This normally being, a good vodka on the rocks. I mean, I can kill a fru-fru martini in 5 minutes flat, but straight up vodka… Ummm, no, not so much :)


    Lisa@Smart Food & Fit February 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Great topic and great tips!
    Luckily I am not much of a drinker. My neighbor makes fun of me all the time for not drinking beer or alcohol. I just don’t like the way I feel afterwards, it’s just not worth it. I’ll enjoy a glass of wine maybe like 4 times a year and never really finish my 4 ounce serving!


    Kate (What Kate is Cooking) February 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I rarely drink, but when I do, I find it really hard to exercise moderation. I don’t even like the taste of alcohol, so I try not to even start!


    Emily February 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Great post! My worst habit isn’t how much I drink but how much I snack once I do drink. I find my stomach is sensitive to the acidity of alcohol so I need to absorb it with something, no good!


    Katey February 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I don’t drink, even though I am in college. I just find that I don’t need to have alcohol to make me more outgoing or courageous or give me a “fun” time. I can do that without the crutch.


    Katie @ peacebeme February 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    This is one of your best posts in awhile! :)


    Julie @ Honey B. February 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Pour small glasses! Whenever I have a glass of wine at home now, I only pour about half a glass. Then I can get up and refill so I feel like I’m drinking more, but at this point after a refill I’ve still only had one glass! :)


    megan @ blackberries for jam February 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s a good idea for me never to exceed one drink in a night. Any more than that will make me feel “off” the next day, and it’s just not worth it. So I’m never tempted to have more. My drink of choice is a good, hearty beer (in Vermont, there are a TON of amazing beers), and I typically don’t drink during the week, so having a beer on the weekend is something that I can look forward to and appreciate.


    Chicago Cuisine Critique February 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Great tips Tina!


    Stacey @ Here's To Life February 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Great Post!! I’m heading out to a couple of concerts this weekend and its good to have these ideas/reminders in mind :) I love the next day workout….keeps you from overdoing it the night before and even if you do, its the best hangover cure!


    Stacey @ Here's To Life February 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Great Post!! I’m heading out to a couple of concerts this weekend and its good to have these ideas/reminders in mind I love the next day workout….keeps you from overdoing it the night before and even if you do, its the best hangover cure!


    Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) February 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    “What are your secrets for enjoying alcohol in moderation?”

    Getting pregnant
    Then having a small baby/child
    And realizing that you go from you can’t drink at all while being pregnant, to not easy/well-advised while nursing, to you “can” drink with a small child but no one is going to get up at 6:23am with your child so you better not be hung over :)

    Seriously, I used to be the biggest drinker, loved it, and then….motherhood. I just really don’t have the desire as much. I am turning into an old lady, i know.

    I love your post and tips, Tina. If i was 25 again, this post would have been SUCH a gem! Still is of course :)


    Mandy February 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Good post! I’m going out tonight with friends and I’ll keep all of these tips in mind! I do have a early morning workout planned tomorrow so that forces me to be good!


    Laura @ prettylittlewords February 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    This is something I struggle with as well…I love the booze. I’m a total lush! But it takes a lot less to give me a nasty hangover these days than it used to…

    I think if I were to cut out alcohol, I would probably lose 5-10 lbs without even trying. But it’s just not worth it to me!


    Beth @ DiningAndDishing February 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I’m just about to turn 26 and my big goal for this year is to cut back on my drinking. It’s not college anymore but I get caught up in the celebrations and have been over doing it a lot lately! This post came just at the right time. Thanks Tina :).


    cailen February 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    great post! i actually have been dealing with this lately. i noticed that 1-2 drinks and i can still listen to my body and what it needs food-wise, but 2+ it’s anyone’s game. i tend to eat too much and then feel gross and bummed out. i think sipping slowly and being sure to drink water and not drink on an empty stomach help me the most, but i’m still feeling my way…

    thanks for the tips : )


    Lizzie February 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Love this post! Something I struggle with as well! One suggestion that helps me is having a glass of water between drinks! Its filling, and keeps me hydrated, so the next day isn’t as painful!


    Leah February 18, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Good tips, and was the hardest part about weight loss for me (and still is). The following (in addition to what was mentioned) helped me:
    1. Stick to vodka/sodas only. If they taste gross, add lime or a slash of juice.
    2. Don’t pregame
    3. Drink every hour once you get to the bar. So if you arrive at 10, you’ll have a max of 3-4 drinks. I usually find by drink 3, I’m good (lol). If you need something in your hand, drink diet coke or water.
    4. Eat something light before you go out. If you don’t eat, you’ll have drunk munchies later.


    Justeen @ Blissful Baking February 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I have the same problem – I can’t seem to stop snacking once I’ve had a few drinks! I will just keep eating and eating and eating. Thinking about all the nasty hands that have reached into the popcorn bowl is a great trick! :)


    Jen @ keepitsimplefoods February 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    It’s definitely helpful if you have somewhere to be or something important to do the next morning (your boring office job doesn’t count), to help slow you down.

    I also like to give myself a number at the beginning of the night, so I know to pace myself. If I know my limit is 2 drinks and I’ve already pounded 1, I’ll sip slowly on the next.

    It’s definitely a struggle though, great post!


    Christin@purplebirdblog February 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    “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!”

    Seriously… community bar snacks always squicked me out a little!


    Erin February 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Honestly Teen, my secret is only drinking a few times a year. Then when I do, I have one drink and I’m loaded. It is awesome! :)


    Hannah February 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Luckily, alcohol has never been my weakness. Chocolate and desserts, on the other hand…


    Lindsey @ Morningstar Project February 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I was just talking to my friend about this the other day. Having a workout the next day (especially a group workout/bootcamp) really helps remind me to watch the # of drinks. I also try to order water instead of another round because most of the time it’s habit that I like to have something in my hand while out with friends.


    marie February 18, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I always drink water and switch back and forth. If I’m at a party, Ill have one cup of water in one hand and alcoholic drink in the other. If I’m at a restaurant, I always order a glass of water at the same time as I order my drink.

    My biggest problem is avoiding having a glass of wine or beer right when I get home after my day. However, I find that not keeping the beer in the fridge is helpful because it forces me to ask myself if I really want it and if yes, then I have to wait for it to get cold in the fridge.


    Rachel @ Healthy Teacher February 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I always keep myself at two. And, I usually drink a ton of water to make myself really full. It always helps!


    Melissa February 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I love your idea about subbing OJ for sour mix in a margarita! I am always up for a good dirty marTINA, but I find that all the salt from the olive juice makes me really puffy, so I usually just sip on one when I do have them. It’s a good way to regulate myself because I know I don’t want to feel swollen and icky the next day!


    Jess (Sweet Potato) February 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I definitely get loosened up after 1 and am more likely to continue ordering more than putting on the brakes!


    Hilary February 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I actually don’t even drink! Honestly don’t really enjoy it, so I figure why bother? I have enough trouble controlling my weight as it is, so I don’t need the extra calories. I admire you and others though who enjoy alcohol and a healthy weight!


    Raya February 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm



    s February 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    did you make up that email ;)?


    Raya February 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Great question and great post! The thought of a hangover is my best method to stop drinking-I HATE feeling yucky the next day!


    Monica February 19, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Great post! This is a topic that is always helpful to receive pointers on.


    Sharon February 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Great post~ Loved your take on moderation and ordering a more expensive glass a wine so you can really savor the taste. I think I will start doing that more often.


    Jen S. February 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Great tips! Thanks. This is an area that I’m slowly getting better in.


    Kristin February 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Great post! Something I still struggle with here and there but planning a workout the next morning and setting a limit for myself have definitely seemed to help. Oh and remembering some of my most brutal mornings isn’t a bad deterrent from bingeing either – haha!


    Angela (the diet book junkie) February 19, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    what a great topic! i would just add one thing: skip the red wine. i know, i know, what a horrible thing to say. but it’s proven to increase appetite more than other alcohols so if you’re worried about the munchies later…:)


    Katherine: Unemployed February 21, 2011 at 5:27 am

    really important to discuss; thanks for this post


    Mac February 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    One of my favorite drinks, which is a little easier on the waistline is a vodka tonic/seltzer with a splash of cranberry or pineapple juice… good flavor and low calorie.


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