Now that the weather is nice, I’m sure many of you are super tempted to leave work early and hit up a great happy hour spot. The indulgent glutton in me totally agrees with you. The health-oriented foodie in me begs you to reconsider. Today’s article is all about making happy hour more manageable so you can still go out and enjoy drinks with your coworkers or friends, yet also keep your calories in check and stay health-conscious.
Avoiding Happy Hour ‘Death Traps’
I call them death traps because they’re so yummy, yet so easy to get sucked into. One bite of crap dip can easily lead to another and another, until you find yourself licking the bowl. Keep these tips in mind for your next happy hour, day drink, or other social event involving alcoholic beverages.
- Avoid multiple liquor drinks–Sure mai tais, Long Island iced teas, and champagne cocktails are all creative and fun. But they’re also super high in calories! When drinking alcoholic beverages, try to stick to one type of alcohol and one sweet mixer. A vodka soda or a white rum, soda, and pineapple juice are excellent choices that have relatively few calories compared to other concoctions.
- Drink water between drinks–I know you’ve heard this a million times, but it’s true. Drinking water is a great way to pace yourself between drinks. Also remember that on hot days and day drinks, you’re more likely to get dehydrated. Make sure you’re drinking enough water by drinking at least one glass of water for each drink you consume.
- Say ‘NO’ to fried foods–Happy hours are notorious for cheap, but fattening appetizers that are loaded with calories, saturated fat, refined oils, GMOs, and more! Try to avoid anything that’s deep fried or full or refined carbs. Examples include crab dip, sliders, potato skins, wings, nachos, and mozzarella sticks to name a few. Some of these appetizers contain as much as 500-700 calories, which is practically a meal. Add 2-3 high sugar drinks and you’ve easily consumed over 1,000 calories.
- Say ‘YES’ To veggie and protein-based foods–So what exactly are you supposed to eat? There are plenty of options to choose from. Chips/raw veggies and salsa are a great choice and available at most bars. Fresh fruit salad, grilled calamari, and even small portions of broiled crab cakes are pretty high in protein and will keep you full.
- Don’t be afraid to order something special–Does the bar not have what you want food-wise? Ask your waiter and see if they’d be willing to accommodate you. If a restaurant has all the ingredients you want, chances are they’ll be willing to make what you want. I was at a pub not too long ago and was really craving some protein-rich turkey/cheese roll-ups. I asked the kitchen and they were happy to prepare it for me!
- Enjoy a non-traditional happy hour item–Don’t think you need to eat fried, cheese covered, and fattening appetizers at happy hour. What’s stopping you from ordering a side salad that’s full of leafy greens, carrots, and lycopene-rich tomatoes? Ordering a side salad for happy hour is a great investment. It’s low in calories and full of vitamins. Use oil and vinegar as a dressing instead of a disgusting, GMO-laden ranch dressing.
- Don’t feel pressure to drink–Happy hour is a time to be happy! Your happiness shouldn’t depend on how drunk you are. It’s about socializing and having fun with your coworkers and your friends. If you’re happy nibbling on fresh veggies and a tall glass of water, good for you! Resist the pressure to self-sabotage in nasty food and drinks that are only going to hinder your weight loss, health, and fitness efforts.
- Host your own happy hour--You don’t need to go to some fancy bar for happy hour. Hold a day drink at your own place! That way, you can control the drinks and the food. Serve healthy snacks like veggies and hummus, my raw cashew dip, fresh fruit, baked chips and salsa, and even today’s healthy spinach dip.
Making Spinach Dip Healthy
For this recipe, I wanted a spinach dip that was rich and creamy without a ton of fat. The answer: Greek yogurt! Greek yogurt is super high in protein, making it a great alternative for mayonnaise or sour cream. Eat this dip with veggies, whole grain crackers, nut/seed bread, or your favorite healthy dippers.