Healthier Happy Hours

margaritas poolside

Happy hour is a great way to catch up with friends and wind down from work, but those half-price drinks and snacks can derail your plans for getting beach ready by Spring. Here are ways to enjoy Happy Hour—and keep your health goals and New Year’s Resolutions on track:

Don’t Go Hungry
Every dieter knows that how you handle the hours after lunch and before dinner are key to keeping your weight down. Eating a snack right before you hit the bar, especially one that incorporates healthy fat and fiber, will help you resist the temptation of salty or deep-fried goodies. Half an avocado on whole wheat toast with a sprinkle of sea salt is a tasty way to stay in control. Worst case, have a zero-sugar protein bar on the walk or drive to the pub.

Make a Plan
If you know you’re going out after work, choose a healthy filling lunch (think lots of vegetables and healthy fats) so you can save a few calories for a glass of wine or beer later.

Have a Spacer
Start with a glass of sparkling water or club soda, or space two alcoholic beverages with a glass of water. Don’t plan to have two glasses of wine then switch to water for the rest of the social hour- you may be too relaxed to stick to your plan.

Decide on an End and an Exit
If you can keep Happy Hour to an hour, you’ll be ahead of the game. Decide how many drinks you’ll have then leave when your glass is empty. If one quick drink turns into two or three—or an unplanned dinner—you’ll likely regret it later.

Avoid Chewables
Since you armed yourself with a good fat / high fiber snack before you came, you can avoid the bar’s tempting half-price treats. Healthy bar snacks are nearly impossible to find, so promise yourself that if you have to chew it, it won’t cross your lips.

Stick to Red Wine or Light Beer
Cocktails usually involve loads of added sugar. Stick to red wine, dry white whine, Prosecco or light beer. These beverages have the fewest calories—and may even have some health benefits when consumed in moderation.

Fake It
If you’re trying to lose weight, find a non-alcoholic beverage that will see you through social situations. Club soda with a splash of cranberry or grapefruit juice looks and feels like a cocktail—you’ll be able to take part in the fun without weakening your resolve or answering uncomfortable questions about why you aren’t drinking. Be mindful to avoid too much juice or tonic water—both are high in sugar.

Remember Why You’re Here
Alcohol and food shouldn’t be the center of happy hour, although bars and restaurants work very hard to ensure that they are. Concentrate on enjoying the shift from the workday and time catching up with friends. Even without alcohol, or too much alcohol, focusing on the present moment will help you unwind and enjoy the transition.

Beware Bad Day Drinks
If your Happy Hour invitation is preceded by “What a terrible day, let’s go get drinks”, you may want to think twice about tagging along. In the end, taking some time alone to relax and process a bad day is a healthier choice than drowning your sorrows with co-workers.