It’s Friday and you’re about to kick off the weekend with a few (okay, maybe more than a few) drinks. While chips, pizza and ribs might feel like the best drinking accompaniments, over time these fatty and salty foods can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat anything -- in fact, eating something before and while you’re drinking is a good idea.
“I think it’s a great idea to have something to nibble on while you’re drinking,” accredited practising dietician Chloe McLeod told The Huffington Post Australia. “If you’re drinking alcohol on an empty stomach it’s more likely to go to your head more quickly.”
Although eating when drinking alcohol can help us to better stay in control, unfortunately, that doesn't mean we should be inhaling hot chips and greasy burgers.
While delicious, these foods are high in fat and salt and should be consumed in moderation -- which is not really in the forefront of our minds when we're pounding through bottles of beer (or boxed wine, if that's the way you roll).
A classic drinking snack is beer nuts and, as you may already know, they are not the greatest food to be snacking on.
“Beer nuts are roasted with oil and salted, which isn’t exactly necessary,” McLeod said. “We don't really need the extra salt in our diets.”
“It’s really easy to pick at salted nuts and they do end up being foods which are quite high in calories and fat.”
Not only that, but salty things make us thirsty, encouraging us to drink more -- which is exactly why they’re placed in bars. More thirsty = more beer.
That said, McLeod believes salted nuts are a better option than, say, a packet of chips.
“It’s probably going to be slightly better to have something like salted nuts than chips because at least there is some nutritional value to it -- there is still healthy fat in them,” McLeod said.
However, there are better, healthier options for you to snack on while you’re drinking.
Unsalted, unshelled peanuts and natural nuts
“You can buy peanuts that are still in their shell and that creates a bit of extra work -- you might be nibbling on them but because you have to open them yourself, you’re less likely to eat them as quickly,” McLeod.
“From a portion control perspective that works well. Plus, they don’t have oil or salt added to them, so that’s a healthy way to eat peanuts or any other natural nuts."
“If it’s been buttered and salted it’s a bit less healthy, but air-popped popcorn has very little in it, so it’s something you can easily pick at and not blow out the waistline,” McLeod said.
Vegetable sticks with dips
“Veggie sticks with dips -- things like hummus, babaganoush and tzatziki -- will all provide healthy nutrients and help fill you up a little,” McLeod said.
“It’s also a good way to get some vegetables in, which can lack when you’re drinking alcohol.”
“One of my favourites would be wholemeal pita baked in the oven at a low heat for 5-10 minutes and cutting that up to make chips,” McLeod said. “You can then eat that with guacamole or salsa.”
“It like a healthy corn chip, but without all the salt and fat added.”
“If you’re really wanting a pizza, get a vegetable-based one rather than one with processed meat (due to the fat and salt content),” McLeod said.
“It's giving you some carbs, some fat and it’s going to sit in your stomach and help absorb that alcohol so it doesn’t go to your head as quickly.”
“But just be careful of portion size."
Sushi and sashimi
"These are good sources of protein and healthy fats -- plus carbohydrates for sushi," McLeod said.
"I would suggest to have both sushi and sashimi so you're definitely getting the carbs."
If you're eating sushi or sashimi while drinking, try adding edamame as a nutritious side.
"Edamame is another good source of protein and carbohydrates," McLeod said.
Cheese and crackers
"This provides a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fat to help with lining the stomach and slowing absorption of alcohol," McLeod said.
Macronutrient balanced meals
“If you’re having a meal, have something that’s got a nice combination of protein, fat, carbs and fibre -- just so you’re feeling satisfied and not drinking on that empty stomach,” McLeod said.
McLeod recommends meals like a burrito bowl, grilled salmon with sweet potato and steamed greens, or tomato-based pasta with a side salad or side of veggies.
Hydration -- not just food -- is also important to help keep your body in check while drinking.
“Water, water, water,” McLeod said.
“Alcohol dehydrates us so one of my favourite things to suggest is, for every glass of alcohol you have, drink a glass of water. It’s going to help your body flush out the alcohol in a more timely manner.”
Just got home after a long night out? Try this snack to help your body bounce back.
“If you've been out drinking, I recommend something like Vegemite on toast,” McLeod said. “Alcohol depletes some of your B vitamins and because Vegemite is high in B vitamins, it helps to replenish some of those.”
“The salt in the Vegemite also makes you a bit thirsty and encourages you to drink some water before you go to bed, so that can help with dehydration,” McLeod said.