Happy hours for me are often filled with anxiety. I wish I could just be willy-nilly with my calories and enjoy the food without the guilt but calorie awareness has changed my perspectives. Before I used to eat tons of happy hour foods and I always went straight for the fried stuff. Mozzarella sticks dripping in sauce. Nachos loaded with the “works.” Yes please! There was nothing better than hanging out with friends sucking down White Russians and sharing platters of fried foods.
My life is different now. I am more cautious in my choices. I ask myself, Do I REALLY want to eat that? Most often the answer is no. Having that clarity now makes it easy to turn down fried foods. This does not mean I skip happy hour altogether. Not at all. Now? I check out the restaurant’s happy hour menus BEFORE I go out and I choose my dishes ahead of time.
Here is a list of foods I think “these are the better choices”. Safe choices.
The Best Happy Hour Foods
1) Dip. Specifically things like hummus, veggie dip, if it’s made with Greek Yogurt even better.
2) Veggies. Crudites, fruit plates, vegetable kebabs, veggies and dip, veggies or fruit wrapped in ham, stuffed mushrooms to name a few. Edamame is a great veggie to order.
3) Olive plate.
4) Spiced nuts are filled with protein but also fat. Eat these in moderation. It’s easy to go overboard on nuts because a serving size is so small.
5) Salads. Most happy hour menus come with some sort of small salad–spinach salad, green salad or Caesar. This is a good starter at Happy Hour. If there are lettuce wraps on the menu, that’s another winner. Caprese salads are delicious and a good happy-medium if you’re craving something with cheese in it.
6) Protein. Chicken skewers, beef and veggie kebabs, meatballs or scallops wrapped in bacon (only a few of course) are good alternatives. Avoid the Italian meat plates because they are high in calories and fat and not very filling compared to other things.
7) Seafood. Mussels, Crab cakes or shrimp cocktail are healthier choices. Shrimp is kind of magical. It’s really high in protein and low in calories.
8 ) Soup. I love soups. Soup is often a safe thing to order at a restaurant because it’s usually lower in calories than most foods and for me a soup and salad are enough food. The best soups to have are tomato or vegetable based. If there’s beans in it, even better. French Onion soup is a decadent choice that’s actually not that bad calorie wise.
1) Spinach artichoke dip. I know. I’m bursting your happy bubble. Trust me, I feel the same way. I love this dip but it’s so high in calories it should be avoided. If you’re craving spinach artichoke dip, I suggest making a skinnier version at home!
2) Cheese dip. Or queso. Or nachos. Anything oozing in cheese with chips should be avoided.
3) Fried Onion Blossom. I’ve never had this. It sounds epic thought. Maybe they are like onion rings? Apparently they have about 1500 calories in them! Holy moly!
4) Cheese fries. Or Chili fries. Or…yeah, you get the picture. I personally think fries are a waste of food. They are so high in calories, carbs and fat yet they aren’t very satisfying.
5) Potato Skins. See above about fries. High calorie, high fat, and then with potato skins I want to load them up with sour cream and toppings. More calories!
6) Fried anything. Fried calamari is one of the worst, which sucks because I love calamari. But once something is fried it’s like it triples the amount of calories in it. Mozzarella sticks are the worst (and best– yum) ever.
QUESTION: How do you face the challenges of Happy Hours with friends? Do you skip it? What do you order?