Strategic Diets: 5 Recipes to Eat Before Happy Hour

Pre-game your night out with one of these meals.

Welcome to Strategic Diets, a deep dive into specific nutritional needs for your desired outcome—from fitness goals to personal aspirations. 

When it comes to enjoying some brews after work—and not regretting it tomorrow—eating the right meal beforehand is key. Contrary to popular belief, the food you eat isn’t soaking up the alcohol, dampening it’s effects. Actually, a balanced meal with foods that are digested more slowly will help slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream (and hopefully ward off late-night munchies and the next-day hangover).

“The best way to cut down on alcohol induced cravings and blood sugar fluctuations while helping to slow the absorption of alcohol into your system is to fill up on foods rich in protein, fiber, and fat before knocking back your first beer,” said Erin Palinski Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies.

Whether you’re heading to happy hour after work, grabbing cocktails for a friends birthday, or invited to a house party this weekend, pre-game your night out with one of these meals.


Breakfast Banana Split

“If you are heading off to enjoy happy hour after work, grab an easy, on-the-go snack option such as 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit and chopped walnuts,” said Palinski-Wade. “This combo packs in the lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber to start your evening off right. As an added bonus, cottage cheese also contains the amino acid cysteine which may help to prevent alcohol induced headaches.” For fancier desktop dining, try a healthy update on a banana split, which also throws fiber- and protein-rich chia and flaxseeds into the mix.


Healthy Chicken Nachos

“If you are heading out to the bar with friends on the weekend, serve up a healthy snack everyone will love before you go to cut down on the negative impact of drinking on an empty stomach, while fighting off cravings for high calorie bar food,” said Palinski-Wade. “An option everyone will love is to make your own healthy nachos at home. Not only is this lower in calories than the bar version, but it contains more fiber, protein, and healthy fats while saving you money as well.” Be sure to include protein toppers like beans and chicken, and serve with a side of salsa for a protein-packed, fiber-rich snack that is sure to be the MVP of your pre-game.


Moroccan Spiced Nuts

“No time to stop and eat? Pack an ounce of almonds in a small plastic bag and keep them with you in your purse,” said Palinski-Wade. “Before heading off to the bar, pop the almonds for a dose of protein, fat, and fiber that will ward off cravings and stabilize blood sugar levels.” You can also make homemade nut mixes in advance and have them on hand for when last minute plans pop up. Those fries will be a whole lot less tempting when you have crunchy, salty nuts with a touch of sweetness to munch on.


Skinny Spaghetti and Meatballs

Sit down to a substantial dinner before you head out to a party or meet friends for drinks this weekend. Lean ground turkey and whole wheat spaghetti provide filling protein and whole grains that will keep blood sugar stable and slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.


Roasted Veggie Quinoa Bowl

Another smart pre-party dinner option that’s made up of a balanced mix of foods—like sweet potatoes, kale, quinoa, chickpeas and broccoli—this meal is going to require digestion, which slows the emptying of food (and therefore alcohol) from the stomach. Plus all of the fiber and protein regulates blood sugar swings (making it less likely you’ll cave as you pass by the pizzeria on your way home). And all of the veggies make for a meal lower in calories, which will help to offset the additional calories you’ll be chugging down.