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Healthy Happy Hour

Orange Icon  Healthy Happy Hour

Orange Icon  Healthy Happy Hour

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You'll never hear me say that living a healthy lifestyle is easy. I know how tough it can be. Temptation is always lurking right around the corner, whether it's a coworker's birthday cake, a company potluck, or the woman in the cubicle next to yours who always brings in homemade cookies. Eating healthy in a country where a 16-ounce soda is considered a "medium" is a challenge, especially if the people around you aren't as conscientious about their health as you are about yours.

While it would be great if you could get all your friends to join you on your journey to living a healthier life, I certainly don't expect you to shun them if they don't. Of course, that means you might find yourself hanging out with people who consider beer and onion rings a food group, so the question becomes: How do you stay healthy when spending time at places (and with people) that aren't?

Happy hour is one of the biggest obstacles my clients often face. How do you go out and have fun while still eating healthy? I won't sugarcoat it: Losing weight and keeping it off means you'll have to say goodbye to many of the fruity drinks and finger foods that once defined your Friday nights. But that doesn't mean you have to swear off alcohol - or fun - entirely! Eating healthy is a lifestyle, not a life sentence. Read on for a few tips on how to make happy hour jive with your health and wellness goals.

1. Consider a spritzer. Eating healthy - and drinking healthy - requires a bit of creativity. Although they might bring to mind women with feathered hair and men with unfortunate mustaches, wine spritzers make a fantastic happy hour alternative to the wine you usually drink. While a little wine isn't bad for you, too much can wreck your diet goals. Ask the bartender to mix half a glass of your favorite red wine (organic if possible) with soda water for a light, refreshing treat.

2. Go for clear liquor. When possible, choose vodka, which is probably the "healthiest" of the hard liquors. (Bet you never thought you'd hear me say that!) I recommend Chopin, which is made from potatoes, or Skyy, which is sulfite free. If you can, consider drinking it on the rocks - the strong flavor will help you sip slower. If not, soda water or tonic are your healthiest options.

3. The fewer ingredients the better. What's true for eating healthy is also true for drinking healthy: The more ingredients in your drink, the worse it is for you. That means that Long Island Iced Teas are definitely off the menu!

4. Know what you're drinking. No matter how appealing a drink sounds, remember that to be healthy, you need to know exactly what you're putting in your body. So unless you know all the ingredients in a Bay Breeze or Mai Tai, stay away.

5. Eat first. Drinking on an empty stomach is a terrible idea for a whole host of reasons. The biggest problem is one you've no doubt experienced: People tend to eat more when they drink. Solve this problem by eating a healthy meal or snack before happy hour. Don't even look at the happy hour food menu, which is always loaded with fried foods, cheese dips, and hamburgers. If you can't resist a bite with your drink, opt for hummus and sliced veggies or a salad with dressing on the side.

6. Remember to hydrate. Alternate each drink with a glass of water. It'll keep you hydrated, stop you from drinking too much, and help head off a hangover before it starts.