Pre-game for your holiday parties with these healthy foods and you won't be a Grinch because of a bad hangover tomorrow
How to Avoid the Holiday Party Hangover
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Headaches, nausea, unquenchable thirst—the struggle from one too many eggnogs last night is real and it's called a hangover. Now, you know all the best mid-party practices to not getting trashed at your office holiday party, like pacing with water and snacks, but to really avoid feeling like you got run over by a reindeer, it's all about loading up on the right fuel before you even head out the door.
"Without food in the stomach, alcohol is absorbed into your blood stream at a much quicker rate," says Tori Holthaus, R.D.N. and founder of Yes! Nutrition in Ohio. She points to a landmark study in the Journal of Forensic Science where people who fasted all night became intoxicated faster and were hit harder than those who ate breakfast before drinking the exact same amount. The quicker the drinks hit you tonight, the harder that hangover is going to hit you tomorrow, she says.
Alcohol can also irritate the delicate lining of your digestive system, which is what causes some of the nastier GI-related side effects of a hangover, like nausea and diarrhea. "Food physically protects your stomach and the rest of your digestive system. It reduces the amount of contact the irritating alcohol has with the lining and dilutes the alcohol before it's absorbed into your blood stream," explains Michelle Shepherd, R.D., owner of Westcoast Nutrition in British Columbia. A reliable meal can take up to two hours to fully empty from your stomach, and it will then travel through the rest of your digestive tract providing the same protection, she says.
So what does that reliable meal look like? Your goal is to load up both on the macronutrients that will help slow the rate at which the alcohol is absorbed (i.e. fat, carbs, and protein), as well as the micronutrients that help your body detoxify the alcohol and repair cell damage quickly. Sounds complicated, but not with these five simple meals.
Loaded Lettuce Wrap
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Forget the idea that you need to stuff yourself on bread to help soak up the alcohol. Ditch the traditional sandwich and pile a broccoleaf (or any other large leafy green) with hummus, quinoa, and vegetables roasted in olive oil, suggests Holthaus. You'll ingest fiber, protein, and fat, which stay in the stomach longer than refined carbs, plus loads of vitamins and minerals. Bonus: You'll save almost 100 calories by trading bread (even whole wheat) for leaves.
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It's not often that we'll ever tell you not to eat a salad, but even the best mix of leafy greens isn't going to help you hurt less tomorrow. Greens alone have very few calories and none of the nutrients necessary to help your body process alcohol. Luckily, Shepherd has a way to modify this healthy staple so it does work: Take a big salad and add a scoop of quinoa and grilled chicken on top. "It's a great pick to get the best out of each macronutrient group and help keep your energy up throughout the night," she adds.
Yogurt and Granola
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Greek yogurt broke the chains tying it to the breakfast table long ago (case in point: 7 Ways to Enjoy Greek Yogurt for Lunch), but a parfait is also one of the best before-booze meals out there, says Shepherd. Top 6 oz of unsweetened Greek yogurt with up to one cup of your favorite berry and half a cup of rolled oats or granola. This packs in protein, fiber, and those repairing nutrients to help heal all the damage from one too many Hot Toddys.
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Fat helps slow down the rate at which food digests, so loading your plate with the healthy kind helps pre-party foods stay in your stomach longer, explains Lisa De Fazio, R.D., a Los Angeles-based nutritionist. A dinner of salmon and rice provides a great balance of healthy fats and carbs. In a rush? Grab some sushi or even a tuna sandwich, says De Fazio.
Veggies and Hummus
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If you ate dinner early or are going out late and you want more of a snack than a meal, you should still aim for that healthy carb-to-protein balance. Shepherd suggests hummus with raw vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, or broccoli. "The chickpeas do double duty as both a protein and a carb, and having some brightly colored, non-starchy vegetables provides fiber to slow down alcohol absorption—as well as a hefty dose of antioxidants," she says. (We've got 13 Different Ways to Make Hummus to help you switch things up.)