By Emily Schmitt, RD, LDN, Campus Recreation Services
It’s a summer afternoon at the office. As the clock ticks to 4:00pm, you pause to gaze out your window, longing to escape from your office’s Arctic-like air conditioning and your increasingly crowded e-mail Inbox.
Then, your co-worker sticks his head into your cubicle and asks that question that you have been waiting to hear all day – “Want to go to Happy Hour?”
Before you let out an enthusiastic “yes”, you pause. You’ve been trying to make healthier food choices this summer. Will taking this opportunity to catch up with your co-workers be damaging to your day’s meal plan? Good news – It doesn’t have to be.
Read on for 8 strategies to eat and drink healthier at Happy Hour:
- Plan Ahead. Know where your group is headed? Look up the restaurant menu online beforehand. Identify what you will be ordering, including type of food and drinks and number of drinks. Stick to your plan.
- Have a Pre-Happy Hour Snack. Are you starving by 4:00pm? Do you know you’ll be tempted by the higher calorie Happy Hour fare? Grab a healthy snack at the office to curb your appetite and prevent overeating at Happy Hour. Ideas include a piece of fruit, part-skim string cheese, yogurt or cottage cheese, or a small handful of nuts.
- Select a Lower Calorie Beverage. Choose wine, light beer, or simple cocktails made with low-calorie mixers like diet soda or sparkling water. Specialty cocktails tend to contain multiple liquors and high sugar juices, syrups, and mixes that significantly increase the calorie content. A good rule of thumb for alcoholic beverages – The simpler, the better. Consider skipping a mixer altogether, ordering your favorite liquor on the rocks.Here are a few healthier substitutes for popular mixed drinks:
- Make Half Your Drinks Non-Alcoholic. Calories from alcohol can add up quickly. To cut down on calorie intake, alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Finish one alcoholic drink then have a glass of water, diet soda, or sparkling water with a lime.
- Try a Vegetable Platter. Many restaurants offer a fresh vegetable platter on their menu. Veggies ranging from carrots and celery to squash and bell pepper, vegetable platters are a low calorie option that provides fiber and other valuable nutrients. Need a dip? Try hummus or guacamole, two nutrient-rich options.
- Limit Fried Options. Happy Hour menus tend to be cluttered with fried dishes – chicken tenders, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers, calamari. The list goes on and on. If available, try a grilled meat option. Craving a fried dish? Ask a co-worker to share. Need help making a food choice? Check out the infographic below.
- Don’t Let the Price Guide You. Happy Hour is known for its food and beverage deals (half price appetizer, anyone?) These well-advertised savings can tempt us to abandon our Happy Hour plan. Unfortunately, making food or drink half price doesn’t change its calorie content. Strive to select menu items solely based upon how they fit into your daily meal plan.
- Diversify Your Happy Hour Options. Encourage your co-workers to change things up and be flexible with your definition of “happy hour”. Walk around the concourse at Cole Fieldhouse. Pop by the Eppley Recreation Center for an afternoon group fitness class. Test out Route 1’s Yogiberry for a sweet treat topped with fresh fruit or sip iced tea or coffee outside of the Stamp’s Coffee Bar. Be creative – the possibilities are endless!
Have a healthy Happy Hour tip of your own to share? Tell us below.