23 Swaps to Outsmart Your Hangover Cravings
You know the drill (although, you wish you didn't): Wake up the morning after a night of slinging back one too many drinks, curse yourself for not being just a touch less thirsty, and vow to swear off everything but green juice and kale salads to repent for the sins of yestereve. But then the smell of bacon and egg beckons or a pizza commercial seduces you with its melty cheese.
When hungover, there are three things most people need, says Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh, a leading healthy meal kit delivery service. "For most, what we need to fix to feel better is: to rehydrate; to balance out our electrolytes (potassium and sodium); and to rid ourselves of the toxins." So, rather than tapping your phone to a loaded burrito on GrubHub, follow these brilliant nutritionist strategies to fulfill any kind of hangover craving—while still eating smart. And P.S.: Next time you're planning a night out on the town, follow these Eat This, Not That! for Drinkers tips so that you can have your vodka and enjoy that bloody mary, too.
Craving a Bagel and Lox with Cream Cheese?
We don't blame you. But instead, Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities, recommends this smart trick: "If you still want the savory bagel toppings, try adding the cream cheese and lox to fresh slices of tomato, or even a hearty Portobello mushroom. You may also enjoy these fixings on a light cracker." You'll still get that fix of shmear and fishy goodness, but slash calories and empty nutrition. "Refined carbohydrates are the first thing we reach over to solve our hangover problems, but usually lead to no resolve since our body really needs real food and hydration," Hayim adds. Avoid these 20 Worst Carb Habits of All Time while you're at it.
Craving a Sweet, Greasy Pastry?
"Go for whole grain toast with peanut butter and a banana," advise The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure. "Eating bananas the morning after a night of heavy drinking replaces lost electrolytes, especially the potassium lost to alcohol's diuretic effect. With the peanut butter, you'll get the fat you crave but it's a healthy fat, unlike the hydrogenated fats in most pastries. And the carbs will come from nutrient-packed whole grains rather than from sugar." Sounds like a tasty, nutritious solution if you ask us. And with your brain operating a tad foggily, three-ingredient assembly can't be beat. Get more super-simple snack ideas with these 40 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep You Slim.
Craving Some "hair of the Dog?"
"Drinking early in the day may make you feel better for a brief period of time, but it will exasperate dehydration, leading to you feeling worse off than ever later on," offers Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. "Instead, make a refreshing and hydrating mocktail with club soda and a splash of orange juice for a potassium-rich choice to improve hydration."
Craving Nausea Relief?
Let's be real: Sometimes, hangovers can be so rough that all we hope for is for the room to stop spinning. Try this to ward of the seasick syndrome: "Instead of avoiding food altogether, try nibbling on something bland, like plain brown rice or quinoa, whole grain crackers or rice cakes. Having some health-promoting food in your belly will help energize your body while you are in intensive recovery/detox mode," suggests Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.
We all know "waffles" is really code for smothering 'em with butter, powdered sugar, chocolate chips and syrup. Instead, try a waffle (or pancakes) with plain, unsweetened yogurt, fruit, and a small drizzle of syrup (if you can't live without it). "The yogurt adds protein and the fruit adds fiber and allows you to use less syrup to sweeten. The combination of fiber and protein, in addition to the carbohydrates from the waffles/pancakes, can help keep your blood sugar more stable," explains Willow Jarosh MS, RD co-owner of C&J Nutrition.
Craving a Greasy Slice of Pepperoni Pizza?
Pizza cravings are a sad but oft-anticipated reality of a little drunken debauchery. Fear not! "Try making your own on a 100% whole grain tortilla using fresh mozzarella to help reduce the sodium and selecting turkey pepperoni to lower the amount of saturated fat," suggests Palinski-Wade. "Bonus: Top it with fresh vegetables for an added boost of antioxidants and electrolytes that will have you feeling back to your old self in no time." Check out the 15 Most Antioxidant-Packed Fruits & Veggies—Ranked! for more free-radical-fighting power foods!
Craving Grilled Cheese?
Mmmm—nothing like Dad's famous grilled cheese and tomato. But before you indulge the stuff that hangover fantasies are made of, try this instead: "The fried buttery goodness is calling our name, but is it really the best solution? Instead, try making your own with 2 slices of multi-grain bread with some low-fat cheese. Pop it in the toaster and enjoy the hot melty goodness with a lot less fat and calories," advises Hayim.
Craving a Smothered Meat and Cheese Burrito?
Select a burrito bowl with beans and tofu or chicken and lots of veggies to satisfy that same hankering. "This meal provides a balance of high fiber carbohydrates, protein, and fiber to keep blood sugar stable and antioxidant-packed veggies to help repair and protect cells," comments Jarosh. Mexican enthusiast?
You might not like this, but first hear Lewis out: "Try a leafy green instead! It's no myth that alcohol dehydrates our body as well as causes a sodium imbalance. So, [rather than reach] for something loaded with salt and other undesirable processed ingredients, try eating a leafy green instead, perhaps best served in a green smoothie."
Craving a Caramel Frappucino?
"You're desperate for that caffeine pick me up, but drinking too much caffeine will aggravate your already low hydration levels," notes Hayim. " Instead, try something like an Americano which adds water, but still gives you the small kick of caffeine you are looking for." For a sweet kick, pair it with apple slices or a banana dipped in almond butter.
Craving Eggs and Bacon?
Heck, even the vegetarians are. Here's out to outsmart it: Make eggs with avocado and asparagus. Trust The Nutrition Twins on this one: "The avocado will give you the fat you're craving, yet will be the healthy fat that won't clog your arteries or cause damage and inflammation in your already taxed body. Asparagus has been shown to speed the breakdown and metabolism of ethanol in the body. And you'll still get protein in the eggs to help temper your blood sugar level. The eggs also help mop up alcohol's left-over toxins thanks to their large amounts of cysteine, which breaks down the hangover-causing toxins."
"Although coffee will dilate blood vessels and help a headache feel better, coffee is a diuretic— it exacerbates the dehydration that is causing the headache in the first place!" exclaims Lewis. "Instead, opt for green tea, which gives a modest dose of caffeine but is also packed with antioxidants to help you feel better. If you're feeling nauseous, go for teas with ginger or lavender in them." Make the most of the benefits from tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Craving Ice Cream?
Indulging your sweet tooth here won't leave to salvation. In fact, all that sugar could make you feel worse. This smarter choice from Palinski-Wade has us thinking we'll try it ASAP, hungover or not: "Swap it for a smoothie blended with cottage cheese, coconut water, banana, and frozen berries. This thick, delicious drink tastes just like a milkshake but packs electrolytes such as potassium which are lost after drinking. In addition, cottage cheese is a good source of quality protein and a rich source of headache fighting cysteine."
Craving a Sports Drink?
We'd be lying if we said we didn't wake up without a half-empty Gatorade next to our bed after a rough night once or twice in our good ole college years. But all that sugar? No thanks. Instead, opt for light and refreshing coconut water: "After drinking all night, our electrolytes can get out of balance. So, instead of reaching for a high-sugar sports drink, try drinking coconut water instead; it's loaded with potassium, will help rehydrate your body, and can counteract muscle spasms, dizziness, and weakness," says Lewis. You might even feel fueled and hydrated enough to hit that yoga class now after all. Check out healthy sports drinks for weight loss!
Craving Some Sinful Tacos?
Not so fast, folks. Make a batch stuffed with beans and avocado and watch your craving fade away. "Avocados [or try guac] contain the good-for-you fat that will also enhance the absorption of other fat-soluble vitamins that help to keep you healthy and fight the damage caused by the alcohol while at the same time providing you with the fat you crave. The beans and avocados are a good way to get potassium to help to restore fluid balance, which is important after drinking alcohol," explain The Nutrition Twins. "This will help to flush those toxins out while also replacing the potassium that is lost due [from alcohol]. And both beans and avocados have vitamins and minerals which will help to keep you healthy, strengthen your immunity and fight against the ill-effects of a hangover. The phytosterols in avocados are powerful anti-inflammatories which can help to counteract some of the inflammation alcohol creates."
Craving Macaroni and Cheese?
Oh, how that blue box beckons. "This comfort food is calling your name after a night on the town. Instead of the processed type that comes in a box, try making your own with tofu noodles, or even a brown rice pasta and a low-fat cheese," says Hayim. "Skip the powdered cheese, and satisfy your craving the real way." Start drooling over these 18 amazing mac and cheese recipes for weight loss!
Craving a Greasy Burger?
"Swap it for a turkey breast or chicken breast burger/ sandwich," recommend The Nutrition Twins. "All of that fat from a regular burger takes a long time to digest and can sit in your stomach for as much as 8 hours, causing sluggishness and heaviness, adding to an already taxed, 'hangover' body. The protein in the chicken or turkey breast that contains much less fat and still is high in protein will help to keep your energy levels more stable and won't divert all of the blood away from your muscles and brain and into your stomach for as long, allowing you to feel more energetic and spring back more easily." Veg? "Opt for a veggie burger made of beans, mushrooms, or other plant products. This will offer up top nutrition, restoring depleted vitamins and minerals, and boost detoxification without adding more toxins to the mix while your organs recoup," offers Hever. We're not saying turn today into a CrossFit day, but post-sandwich you may just feel up for a walk or a light jog in the local park.
Craving a Chocolate Milkshake?
Hold the Kahlúa this time around, okay? "Choosing a high-fat meal with little to no nutritional benefit is not going to help anyone," cautions Hayim. "Instead, try to replicate this flavor profile with a high protein smoothie or smoothie bowl. Try blending chocolate protein powder with banana, and even some peanut butter for a treat." Let the lip-smacking begin.
Craving Bacon, Egg and Sausage on an English Muffin?
"Swap the sandwich for an omelet instead. Eggs are a good source of complete protein and contain cysteine, an amino acid that helps break down the headache-causing chemical acetaldehyde that's left behind as your body metabolizes alcohol," describes Palinski-Wade. "An omelet with peppers, onions, turkey sausage, and a small sprinkle of cheese will have you on the road to recovery with less overall calories and saturated fat." If you must venture out, first check our best and worst breakfast sandwich guide for the lowdown.
Craving Pancakes with Butter, Syrup and the Works?
"Instead of pancakes with butter and loads of sugary syrup, top pancakes with berries and honey. You'll still get the carb energy boost you crave," comment The Nutrition Twins. "Honey contains fructose and studies have proven fructose increases the rate at which the body gets rid of toxins such as those left over from alcohol metabolism. Plus, you'll skip the artery-clogging butter while getting extra nutrients and fiber from the fruit, to help prevent constipation and keep things moving swiftly through your digestive tract." Look for a whole wheat pancake mix, or try one of these 11 best pancake recipes for weight loss that are as yummy as ever. Okay, maybe not Katalina's famous pancake balls in Columbus, Ohio; but you get our drift.
Craving Chinese Food?
Put down the takeout menu. Hey, we still see you. It's no surprise you're looking to speed dial the lo mein in right about now: "You're dehydrated, and your body is begging you for salty food, specifically those high in MSG (monosodium glutamate, a very high sodium flavor enhancer)," shares Hayim. "Instead of ordering in, try cooking with fresh or frozen vegetables in your own light sodium soy sauce. To help fill you up, try pairing with some homemade brown rice."
Craving Something Healthy?
What a virtuous post-libations fella or lassie you are! When you're looking to sink your teeth into something wholesome, indulge your craving with a bean burrito. "[It offers] wholesome plant protein and plenty of fiber to induce elimination of leftover detoxification byproducts. Add nutritional yeast to replenish B vitamins that are depleted with alcohol consumption," advises Hever.
Craving Coffee with All the Extras?
Trade that java jolt in for a small glass (around six ounces) of 100% fruit juice, advise The Nutrition Twins. "Typically a cup of coffee isn't a bad thing and it will wake you up, but if you're loading it with artificial creamers, they're full of preservatives and hydrogenated fats and place a further burden on your taxed system. (Preservatives and artificial ingredients demand your body's detoxification system as does alcohol…) None of this is ideal when you're trying to tame the tension on your inside and trying to recover from alcohol," say The Nutrition Twins. "Fruit juice contains fructose and studies have proven fructose increases the rate at which the body gets rid of toxins such as those left over from alcohol metabolism—and it's a good drink the morning after because it's high in vitamins and nutrients that were depleted the night before because of alcohol's diuretic effect. Many fruit juices also have phytonutrients to decrease inflammation in the body to hasten recovery." Be careful of juice cleanses, though—at the very least, look out for these 10 Signs a Juice Cleanse is Bogus.