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Does Alcohol Trigger You to Eat?

In all of my years as a nutritionist, there is one hurdle that has consistently surfaced for my clients and friends – alcohol. Not only does booze contain calories, but it can stimulate your appetite and lower your inhibitions, causing you to eat more, or eat foods you wouldn’t even touch if you were stone cold sober. If you’ve ever raided your pantry, scarfed down a greasy slice of pizza or ordered a breakfast fit for a lumberjack after a night of cocktails, here are six tips to keep things in check:

Eat before you drink. Alcohol gets absorbed from your stomach. When it’s empty, it happens faster and hits your brain in minutes, which makes those bar appetizers much more appealing. Slow it down by noshing on a healthy fat/protein combo before your first sip (that means never "saving up" your calories for alcohol). If you’re still at home, nibble on a quarter cup of almonds, about the size of a golf ball. If you go out to dinner first, order lean protein (beans, tofu, chicken, shrimp) and be sure to include some good-for-you fat like an olive oil based vinaigrette or avocado. A black bean taco salad with guacamole is a good bet. Fat and protein both slow the emptying of your stomach.

Ditch the mix. 12 oz of light beer (one bottle or can), 5 oz of red or white wine (a little smaller than a yogurt container) and 1 shot of liquor all have about the same amount of alcohol and each packs about 100 calories. You drink the beer and wine solo, but you’re likely to add something into the hooch. That’s what can propel a 100 calorie shot to a 500 calorie cocktail in an instant. Stick with light beer or wine and if you drink liquor, mix it with seltzer, which is calorie free, or go with 100% fruit juice; it’ll at least count toward your daily fruit servings. Note: fancy mixed drinks can be a calorie minefield. For the calories in one mudslide, you could drink 12 ultra light beers. 

Double fist it. Always get a water to accompany each drink and finish both before you order the next. Alcohol is dehydrating so H2O can help prevent a hangover, but it will also slow you down. Limiting yourself to one drink is ideal – that’s the recommendation- but if that’s not realistic, at least this trick will help you limit the number of drinks you down in one evening.

Out of sight, out of mind. If you’re at a bar that serves up nuts, pretzels, popcorn, etc. put it out of arm’s reach and out of sight. You’ll mindlessly grab if it’s in front of you and you may not even realize it.

Plan your post-drinking meal. If I’m going out with friends, I pre-pop organic, oil free popcorn (25 calories per cup popped) and leave it out on the counter top. That way if I have the munchies when I get home, I’ll grab the bag instead of a much higher calorie alternative. I also choose a restaurant near where I’m going out, scope out the menu in advance and pick out a light option. That way, if my friends want to grab something on the way home, I can suggest a place and I don’t even have to look at the menu.  

Think outside the bar. If you feel like you’re in a drinking rut, try to mix it up. Volunteer to be the “activities director” and plan some alcohol free evenings like indoor rock climbing or roller-skating.  

So, what do you think? Would these tips work for you? Do you struggle with eating under the influence? Please share your thoughts and tips!

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