With so much available information these days about eating right and the importance of exercise, many of us are trying to change our habits and adapt a healthier lifestyle. Figuring out how to drink alcohol and still be healthy may not be as easy as swapping out your white rice for brown rice at sushi or sneaking in a Pilates class on Saturday afternoons, though. Going to happy hour with your coworkers or hitting up a friend's birthday can definitely be fun, but it's hard not to wonder how much that strawberry margarita really goes along with that healthy lifestyle.
Just because you are trying to be healthier doesn't mean you need to completely give up alcohol and head straight to the juice bar, especially when there's evidence that beer and wine are actually really good for you, according to Harvard School of Public Health. If you make the right choices when it comes to drinking, you don't have to sabotage your health along the way.
If you're trying to figure out a way to still enjoy a night out while retaining your otherwise healthy habits, try following the below seven tips for a healthier drinking experience.
1. Eat A Well-Balanced Meal First
Some people say carbs are the way to go, and other drinkers swear by protein, but nutritionist Kate M. Kanner RD, LD, recommends consuming a balanced meal that contains a mix of protein, healthy fat, and complex carbs. "Eating a balanced meal before drinking will slow down the absorption of the alcohol into your bloodstream," Kanner tells me over email.
2. Choose Light Over Dark
Darker drinks are more likely to cause hangovers, as they contain congeners, toxic compounds formed during the fermentation process, says the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Stick to clear drinks like gin and vodka, and avoid pairing them with fruity drinks or sweet syrups, which are often extremely high in sugar.
"While you are drinking it is best to sip on water in between your alcoholic beverages," Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN tells me over email. "Alcohol can cause you to become dehydrated and repleting your fluid needs in between those alcoholic drinks will help stop that hangover the next morning."
4. Add Lemon Or Lime To Your Drink
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking alcohol can weaken your immune system, so avoid getting sick by adding some lemon or lime to your drink. The vitamin C in lemon will help boost your immunity and its citrus flavonoids improve digestion. Plus, it's a great way to add flavor to your drink naturally without using sugar or other artificial flavors.
5. Say Yes To The Wine
That is, red wine, in particular. "One alcoholic drink that is proven to help lower the risk of some diseases like heart disease and shown to be part of a healthy, balanced diet (such as a Mediterranean diet), is red wine," says Beth Warren, MS, RDN, CDN over email. "Resveratrol is the notable antioxidant linked with the positive health benefits."
6. Pace Yourself
If you're going out with friends, try to make the focus of your night the activity and make drinking the added bonus. If you make drinking the main event, you are more likely to end up drinking too much or too fast, which makes you more likely to blackout or end up with an insufferable hangover the following day.
7. Plan Ahead When It Comes To "Drunchies"
You might crave salads on any given day, but after a night out, must of us usually opt for a greasy slice of pizza or a bowl of chili fries. If you're trying to have your daytime eating habits carry over to the night, think ahead when it comes to your late night snack. Prepare something healthy at home or have a place picked up prior to hitting the bar for the evening.
If nutrition is important to you, and you're looking to make your trips to the bar a little more health-conscious, you absolutely don't have to give up the fun of going out with your friends.