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4 Plan-Ahead Ways to Prevent the Drunk Munchies

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If you’ve ever started your night with a few drinks and ended it unable to resist (an entire size large McDonald's) French fries, you know that alcohol can push you to eat more than you want. (And it just so happens all the not-so-good for you foods taste oh-so-good.)

But a new study finds that the culprit to falling for these foods might not be their taste, but their smell. Researchers at Indiana University had women visit their lab two times; one day, the women got an IV of saline before lunch, and on the other day, they got pumped with alcohol pre-meal. On the boozy visit, they ate more (no surprise). The scientists also measured brain responses to the meals, and found that the hypothalamus, an area of the brain related to appetite and metabolism regulation, was more responsive to the aromas coming from their food post-alcohol. (Learn more about the Body-Altering Effects of Alcohol.)

This presents a particularly problematic combo for your healthy eating plans, says New York-based nutritionist Jessica Cording, R.D. Why? Because you’re sensitized to food aromas and your inhibitions may be lowered, so you’re more likely to make food choices you won’t feel all that great about the next day. But with a few smart strategies, you can enjoy your cocktails and still stick to your healthy-food plans.

Eat First

While many of her clients try to “save” calories earlier in the day, drinking on a near-empty stomach is a no-no, says Cording, and not just because you’ll feel the alcohol’s effects more quickly. “When you’re starving and drinking, you eat the first thing you see,” she says. Summer gatherings, which often start in the afternoon, can be particularly tricky. “If you’re going to an early afternoon barbecue, have a late breakfast with a mix of protein and carbs, like eggs and toast, yogurt and fruit, or even a turkey sandwich. This way you’ve had a healthy meal and your blood sugar will be on an even keel.” And don’t forget to chug water! (Sip safely in the sun by reading up on these 6 Day Drinking Dangers.)

Pick a Number

When you go to an event like a wedding, decide in advance how many drinks you’ll have and when. For example, plan on one during the cocktail hour, one during dinner, and a glass of champagne for the toast. This strategy will also help you space out your booze, and force you to alternate with more hydrating drinks (back to that water!).

Have Your Go-Tos

If you generally go to the same neighborhood or bars and restaurants, do a one-time search for nearby healthy options. This way, you won’t have to overthink it (and give in to temptation) when hunger strikes the next time you’re out with friends. And if you’re in unfamiliar territory, stash a pack of nuts or some jerky in your purse, advises Cording. (These tasty New and Improved Low-Calorie Snacks to Tame Cravings would be perfect too.)

Set Up for a Snack

Putting out a banana and a peanut butter packet (along with a big glass of water) before you leave for the evening does two things. First, it keeps you from rummaging through the fridge and binging on leftovers. And second, the potassium and magnesium in that snack will help mitigate tomorrow’s hangover—a big plus in our book. (Or try any of these 5 Healthy Recipes for Hangover Cures.)

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