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"Healthy" Happy Hour Tips


It’s officially that time of year.  Outdoor patios at restaurants are opening, the sun is out longer, and my clients are starting to ask more and more, ”Are those after-work cocktails and outings really bad?”  Happy Hours are popular among our culture, whether we feel the need to reward ourselves after an overly stressful workday or just want to catch up with friends.  Whatever the case, at this time of year especially, my clients want to know what they can get away with from that discounted appetizer and beverage menu.  If you are watching your weight, limiting your alcohol or avoiding alcohol altogether might be in your best interest. But if you refuse to give up your social schedule, make sure you follow the tips below so you don’t completely sabotage your waistline.  Read on to learn my top DO’S and DON’TS when it comes to the ubiquitous Happy Hour.  Cheers!

DO hold the sugar!  Although most alcohol will have some carbs and natural sugar (most are derived from wheat or grapes!), it’s the other liquids and ingredients mixed in with it that can create a highly sweetened beverage doomed to wreak havoc on your body!  Avoid the daiquiris, margaritas, dessert wines and sweet mixers, and instead, choose a red or white wine, or mix a spirit with some club soda with a slice of lemon or lime.

DON’T give into the high-carb appetizers.  Popular appetizers such as nachos and potato skins go down really easy after a drink or two, often leading us to overeat and sabotage our nutrition plan.  Instead, go for the higher-protein options such as steak bites, chicken wings (dry rub) or some chicken satay.  You’ll get fuller faster and stabilize your blood sugar and energy much better!

DO enjoy a little time to relax.  The average person is overcommitted and overstressed at work, as well as at home.  A little break to socialize, debrief and get away can work wonders for stress management.  But don’t use alcohol as your go-to stress management technique; keep the happy hours minimal and value them more for a time to socialize with friends. 

DON’T forget the water – especially as outdoor temperatures continue to rise!  It’s easy to forget about drinking water when you have another beverage in front of you.  Drinking enough water will keep you hydrated, and, if you are a fast drinker, keep you from overdrinking the other beverages.  My rule is to order a glass of water alongside any alcoholic beverage and to alternate sips between them.  

DO get creative with your drinks and make them last longer.  Try adding some club soda to your wine – it not only turns it into a nice spritzer but it also increases the volume of your beverage, making it last longer.  Not interested in drinking period?  Who says you can’t just order a little soda water with lime and pretend!

DON’T let the price determine what you eat or drink.  It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “what’s the best deal” on the happy hour menu. Most often, the heavily discounted foods and drinks are the least healthy.  Stick to your “best” options, and fork up the extra cash for the foods and drinks that won’t cause you to deviate from your plan. 

What are your best healthy happy hour tricks?  Share them below!

Written by Anika DeCoster – Asst. Program Manager, LifeTime WeightLoss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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