It's a familiar scenario -- you and your friends just did a few rounds of shots at the bar, and now you're craving nachos or cheese fries at 2 a.m.
Before you walk over to the all-night diner to snag your favorite greasy dish, consider taking the opportunity to make your drunk diet a little healthier.
Studies have shown that alcohol causes your blood sugar to drop, which is why people report a longing for carbohydrates after a heavy drinking session. And even two ounces of alcohol on an empty stomach can severely lower your blood sugar -- which, over time, can lead to a decrease in your insulin's effectiveness (think diabetes).
Other research, too, has found that alcohol sensitizes the brain to external cues, like food aromas, and causes you to consume extra calories.
So while it's definitely important to accompany your alcohol with food -- after all, you don't want the alcohol to enter your bloodstream too quickly -- you can make healthier decisions than eating that grease-filled burger.
Here are a few tips to avoid the drunken binge sessions you might know all too well.
1. Have a Plan
You don't have to eat greasy bar food just because you're going to a bar. Make a plan with your friends to find a healthy restaurant or diner before you hit the shots.
Alcohol contains empty calories -- it has no nutritional value. So you can mitigate the late-night cravings by choosing foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and nutrition-heavy calories (I'm thinking some kind of delicious chef salad...).
You and your friends could even get together at someone's house -- or dorm room -- and cook some healthy foods yourselves. Plenty of recipe websites, like All Recipes, have a section on healthy and easy cooking ideas.
It's not just your waistline that will thank you -- your wallet will, too.
2. Keep Healthy Munchies with You
People say taking care of drunken friends is like taking care of toddlers, and this applies to snacks, as well. Help your friends and yourself by keeping snacks in your purse or bag throughout the evening.
Keeping healthy munchies with you, especially when you know you're going out drinking, will make you less likely to have intense cravings for that carbohydrate-filled meal. Snacking on some fruit or nuts while you're at the bar may also help you avoid that nasty hangover the next morning (or afternoon, if you really partied hard).
3. Know the Right Drunk Foods
How can you eat healthier if you don't know what your options are? Here are a few ideas on some foods you should eat when you're drunk, instead of the fast food you're used to eating.
When You're Home:
Whole Wheat Crackers or Toast. Bland foods like crackers and toast can help absorb the alcohol, raise your blood sugar and alleviate feelings of nausea. If you find these foods too bland for you, add some peanut butter or Nutella for extra flavor and protein.
Low or No Butter Microwave Popcorn. Sometimes you can't help it -- you really crave something salty. Light butter microwave popcorn can fulfill your craving without delivering all the fat in fries or chips. There are also tons of other ways you can make popcorn taste great, sans butter.
Whole Wheat Cereal or Oatmeal. Soft foods like cereal or oatmeal are easy to digest and, as long as you eat the whole wheat kind, you'll be equipping yourself with fiber.
Brown Rice. Skip the fried rice when you're drunk -- it's full of salt and fat. Brown rice is easy to digest and full of fiber. Plus, it's still delicious with broccoli and chicken.
When You're Out:
Soup. Avoid creamy soups like chowders or bisques -- they contain a lot of fat. But clear, broth-based soups can go down easily when you're drunk. Don't forget the saltines! They'll help absorb the alcohol and stave off that hangover.
Pancakes or Waffles. If you really can't control the urge to binge on carbs, pancakes and waffles aren't a bad idea -- as long as you skip the butter and whipped cream. Order a side of fruit for an extra health boost.
Grilled Chicken or Veggie Panini. If you're in the mood for a sandwich, stick with grilled meats or veggies. Skip the mayonnaise and cheese -- they contain a lot of fat that your body doesn't need when you're drunk.
Thin Crust or Veggie Pizza. If the thought of giving up pizza when you're drunk is just too much (and hey, we've all been there), consider ordering an extra-thin crust or veggie pizza. They're less calorie-dense than traditional pizzas, and you'll be restoring nutrients to your body with a healthy helping of vegetables. Just try to minimize the cheese -- or at least blot the oil.
See? All hope is not lost. You can still indulge in delicious foods you crave, just with a few healthy modifications. Doing so will leave you feeling less guilty in the morning, and likely less hung over, too.