It was during the throes of a particularly boozy Chicago Summer™️ that I truly began to believe I had discovered the perfect post-bar snack to cure my insatiable drunken appetite. Spicy chicken-flavored ramen soup was wildly cheaper than ordering delivery, and I figured the high salt-content, in addition to the fact that it was soup, had some positive benefits to the whole dehydration aspect of consuming inordinate amounts of alcohol.
But in hindsight, I can’t help but think this revelation had more to do with the fact that I’d accidentally ordered 125 packs of ramen off of Amazon than any kind of superpowers that spicy ramen possessed to help quell an evening spent drinking.
Turns out, though, had I been eating spicy chicken ramen soup instead of spicy chicken-flavored ramen soup, my late-night snacking theory would have been pretty sound. “A meal that combines proteins and carbs is ideal after a night of drinking,” registered dietitian nutritionist Shena Jaramillo explains. “This will help you to get a mix of vitamins, minerals and fiber to keep digestion moving smoothly.”
Because alcohol acts as a diuretic, Jaramillo says “it’s important that you eat as well as stay hydrated, because eating helps keep the body’s hydration in balance.” Thus, eating foods that are “rich in nutrients and fiber and high in water content will help to provide important electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which will help to prevent hangovers and stomachaches the next day.”
According to registered dietitian Johna Burdeos, another thing to keep in mind is serving size. Essentially, you want to stick to things you can eat on a small plate but have a bit of substance to them — think of foods that are “a bit lighter and nutritionally superior with fiber, protein and healthy fat to satiate you, but small enough that you’re forced to pace yourself and avoid feeling bloated.”
With that in mind, Burdeos recommends popcorn and peanuts. “Popcorn is considered a whole grain, and whole grains reduce the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease; plus, popcorn is high in fiber and contains antioxidants,” he explains. “And so, as long as you don’t douse it with salt and butter, popcorn is relatively low in calories too.”
Peanuts, meanwhile, “are loaded with nutrients — protein, heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and antioxidants,” he says. “Like with popcorn, avoid the ones with a bunch of added sugar and salt, and if you don’t mind shelled peanuts, having the shell on them takes extra time to eat, so you may eat less overall.”
If peanuts and popcorn aren’t your thing, Burdeos recommends tricking your brain into eating a bunch of vegetables by having some “nutrient dense dips like salsa, guacamole, Greek yogurt dip or tzatziki and hummus on hand.” “Eat them with low salt chips or crackers — or even better, dip-friendly vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber and snap peas,” he says.
Finally, if you’re craving something more substantial, Allison Sizemore, a certified sports nutritionist, says she’ll often recommend her clients make a hot ham, egg and cheese sandwich on wheat bread after a night spent drinking. “The combination of protein, carbs and fats will leave you feeling satisfied but won’t pack on a lot of extra calories,” she explains. “Not to mention, it’s simple enough to prepare even if you’ve had a few too many drinks.”
Even better, she adds, “it also won’t cause an insulin spike the way a carb-only snack might,” which could leave you with a worse headache and feeling particularly lethargic.
So, once you’ve satiated yourself with, say, a couple pieces of watermelon, some protein-rich yogurt and a chicken sandwich topped with tomato, lettuce and onion, you can pass out with confidence knowing that you’ve kinda, sorta helped your body after you spent the rest of the evening poisoning it.