Meet guest blogger Cynthia Parrott, a busy working woman who manages to find the time for fitness, diet and the writing of great advice for health-conscious women like you.
Happy Hour... it's the ritualistic reward for a hard day of work or the regular Friday gathering of friends anxious to kick off the weekend.
Happy Hour is the time we can finally relax with a drink, enjoy casual conversation and put our troubles behind us for a little while.
Regardless of where and when we celebrate Happy Hour, this seemingly innocent ritual might not be as harmless as it appears -- at least not to your diet. If we are not careful, we can eat too much and drink too much. This can lead to a bunch of unhappy hours for our waistlines.
We need to practice a litle self-control, so if Happy Hour is on your agenda drink in these ways to keep it happy!
If you know in advance that Happy Hour is in the cards for after work, make sure you eat a healthy breakfast and a substantial lunch. Get plenty of protein via eggs or lean turkey breast on whole grain bread. Protein will fill you up and keep you satisfied for a long time and this will keep you from falling prey to the unhealthy snacks at the bar.
As a bonus benefit: The extra food in your belly just might slow the absorption of alcohol.
If happy Hour is an impromptu gathering after a tough day, stop on the way and have something healthy to eat. Grab a sandwich, some string cheese, or a few slices of roast beef from a local deli. wash it down with a bottle of water. This will not only prevent binge eating but will also keep you hydrated.
Back away from the buffet
Most bars will offer free food during Happy Hour. This entices you to come in and spend more time... and money.
If you did plan ahead and had something to eat, you will be less tempted to graze at the unhealthy spread stretching out before you. If you must indulge, try to make wise choices.
Choose a few slices of cheese and some crackers, the veggie platter (I often munch on the celery served with the hot buffalo wings), bruschetta on a slice of crusty French bread, or a couple of shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce. These are much-healthier options compared to the mini pizzas, three-foot subs, greasy fried chicken wings and pastry-wrapped cocktail franks.
Worst case scenario: Grab a slice of the hero, take out the cheese and meat and discard the bread... or eat a couple of the hot dogs without the pastry.
Just because the food is there and it's free doesn't mean you have to eat it. Trust us, no one will be insulted if you choose to skip the Happy Hour food. You probably haven't your dinner yet and you certainly don't need two evening meals.
Rather a pirate's friendly greeting, this is meant as a warning.
The scattered baskets of chips, pretzels and peanuts are calling to you. But these salty snacks are there for one reason only -- to make you thirsty so you will drink more. Not only are these snack baskets a breeding ground for germs (just think of all the unwashed hands continuously reaching into those baskets!), but they will quickly wreck your diet.
It's so easy to absentmindedly munch away. Before you know it, you've eaten the equivalent of a large bag of potato chips. Steer clear of these tempting traps and avoid them like a plague! If you absolutely cannot resist, ask the bartender for a fresh basket of pretzels or peanuts, take a small handful, get up, place the basket at the other end of the bar, and walk away.
Don't get too comfortable. Sitting at the bar for long periods of time will encourage you to drink more. You are in direct view of the bartender and he will keep opening a fresh bottle of beer or pouring you a refill each time he notices your empty wine glass. Get up and walk around, mingle and meet new friends. Take a walk outside and get some fresh air (and exercise) if there is a patio or deck area.
Be a dancin' fool!
Most bars have a band, a DJ or a jukebox, so step out onto the dance floor and shake your booty. It doesn't matter how good you are or what you look like. Just get out there and have a good time.
I love Happy Hour at my local bar because the old-timers go there and they love to dance the good old-fashioned way. Say YES to the elderly gentleman who offers to spin you around the dance floor. Grab your friends, the lady sitting in the corner by herself, or just get out there alone and start moving to the music.
If the dance floor is empty, that's okay. Be the one to get the party started! Dancing is exercise in disguise and it helps you burn off a few calories.
Many of us make the mistake of not counting the calorie or sugar content of what we drink. All those beers, pina coladas, glasses of wine, and martinis add up fast.
Most alcoholic drinks (especially cocktails with mixers) are loaded with calories and sugar.
My favorite drink is a dirty vodka martini. I was shocked to learn it has about 220 calories. Two of those at Happy Hour whacks me with 440 extra calories! Combine those with some snacks from the buffet table and I have just blown my diet for the day.
Avoid drinks mixed with sugary soda or juice and anything frozen or creamy. A delicious, refreshing margarita has 550 calories, while a mudslide contains 417! Unless you plan on having only one drink and not eating for the rest of the day, reserve those sinful concoctions for very special occasions only.
Your best options: A good quality vodka mixed with club soda and a twist of lemon or lime has only 65 calories, while a Bloody Mary has about 90 calories. Light beer or a glass of red or white wine has about the same. If you desire something a bit more exotic, try a mojito. If it's made with light rum, a bit of sugar and topped off with cold club soda, it should be about 160 calories and 15 grams of sugar.
Whet your whistle with water
Imbibing, snacking and conversing makes a person thirsty. So be sure to drink plenty of WATER.
Alternate one drink with one glass of water throughout the evening. Water will keep you hydrated and will flush your system.
Limit your alcohol to two or three drinks and then make the switch to ALL water or club soda. Your bartender will be more than happy to pour you a large glass of water with plenty of ice and a twist of lemon or lime.
An hour or two before you are ready to leave for the night, quit drinking alcohol and sip several glasses of water instead.
Never, ever drink and drive
No matter how good you think you feel -- and no matter how much you think you are in control -- you are considered impaired after just two or three drinks. NEVER get behind the wheel of your car in this condition. Choose a designated driver before you arrive at the bar, or call a friend or loved one to come get you. And always have $20 tucked away in your wallet or purse for a cab.
Leave your vehicle behind and make arrangements to get it later that night or the next day. Don't worry about bothering your friends or making a trip out of your way to retrieve your car. These are minor inconveniences compared with the cost of an attorney and penalties for a DWI, spending a night or two in jail, and losing your driver's license for a year or more.
Always be responsible. If you can't be, perhaps you should avoid Happy Hour altogether. A couple of hours of fun are not worth the price, the humiliation, the potential devastation, and other dire consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol.
You don't have to overdo Happy Hour to have a good time.
What makes Happy Hour happy is the act of gathering together with people you care about, forgetting about your stress and drama for a little while, and having a few laughs.
Now, I'll drink to that!
About Cynthia: I am a Certified Holistic Health and Nutritional Counselor. My company is Metamorphosis Consulting and I have been in private practice for over 10 years. I believe we can completely transform our lives by nourishing our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. It is my desire to help others achieve their health and nutritional goals, their personal goals, and to live the life they have always dreamed of. Learn more at www.truemetamorphosis.org and www.cyndaily.com.