Having fun and spending time with friends is good for your health, but it is easy to get carried away with the booze, especially if you are drinking on an empty stomach. Although some alcohol is absorbed immediately into the bloodstream regardless of what’s in your stomach, the majority still needs to go through the digestion and absorption process before it can reach your bloodstream. Without food to help slow down this process, you will most likely begin to feel the effects of alcohol much faster as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises over a shorter period of time. Choosing foods high in protein, fat and complex carbohydrates is key to helping reduce the rate at which alcohol enters your bloodstream, allowing you to spend more time with friends without feeling like you’ve gone overboard.
The reality is most of us wait until we arrive at a bar or restaurant before realizing we haven’t had anything to eat. Before ordering a drink, make sure to scan the food menu. Look for nutrient-packed munchies that are easy to snack on while chatting with friends. Remember alcohol contains little nutrition except for calories, so making good quality, nutrient-rich food choices will fill you up, nourish your body and hopefully decrease your chances of a late-night drive-thru line.
Unfortunately, most bars and happy hour friendly restaurants aren’t famous for offering healthy fare that doesn’t require a fork and knife. This is when a little insight can be helpful when trying to spot easy, healthy happy hour munchies. You may be surprised at some of our top snack choices. We find these munchies easy to pick up, relatively inexpensive, good for sharing and not to mention many of them pair great with a wide variety of drink choices.
Nuts — High in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and plant-based proteins, nuts are great for munching. When pre-shelled, nuts only require one hand to pick up and throw in your mouth, so you don’t even have to put your drink down. Nuts also are packed with vitamins including B vitamins, which support energy production, and vitamin E, which acts as a potent antioxidant. Nuts are also loaded with minerals including copper, potassium, magnesium and selenium.
Popcorn — Another easy one-handed snack that is making a comeback in many popular pubs is popcorn. These soft, yet crunchy, kernels are considered a whole grain, and they are packed with complex carbohydrates, including fiber. Popcorn also contains a small amount of natural fat, protein, B vitamins and iron with a relatively low calorie count. A cup of air-popped kernels contains about 30 calories, and if popped with oil, about 35 calories per cup. However, be cautious of large amounts of added fat, sugar and salt, as these can increase the calorie count and encourage you to drink more.
Hummus and vegetables — This is a great way to get your vegetable servings in while packing in great nutrition. A two tablespoon serving of hummus will run you about 70 calories and only 25 calories for a cup of raw vegetables. This is minimal in calories when you consider the amount of other non-calorie nutrients this snack provides. Hummus is loaded with plant-based proteins, heart-healthy fat and complex carbohydrates — not to mention the multitude of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium.
Olives — Keeping with the theme of easy one-handed snacks, olives are a great choice while enjoying an adult beverage with friends. Olives are high in calories due to their high fat content, but they are considered nutrient dense meaning for a small serving they are stuffed with lots of high-quality nutrition. Their fat content is mainly the good for you monounsaturated fats, which helps keep our heart and blood vessels healthy by lowering bad cholesterol. Olives are also a good source of vitamin E, which acts as powerful antioxidant, and many minerals including calcium, copper, iron and zinc.