Hung Over? Exactly What To Eat (And Avoid!) To Feel Better, Stat
One of the downsides to eating an overall clean and healthy diet is that when you do indulge in, say, a cocktail, you feel it a lot more. A lot of my nutrition clients get annoyed when this first happens as they find their new limit, but it shows them how their body is getting used to better nourishment and a higher quality of life and as such can actually be a powerful motivator to keep up the great work.
It’s also definitely an argument for drinking only stuff you absolutely love! There’s nothing like waking up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep, wondering whatever could have made you think that second $5 glass of house red was worth it.
While the primary cure for a hangover is time, what we eat and drink can make a big difference. Here are some of my go-to recommendations to help you feel more like yourself when you wake up wishing time traveling was a thing so you could go back and take that glass out of your hand.
Why hangovers happen in the first place.
Because alcohol acts as a diuretic, we end up losing electrolytes in the urine. The resulting dehydration has a lot to do with those hangover symptoms like headache, fatigue, dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting. The memory loss, appetite changes, and foggy-headed feeling that can occur with excessive drinking can be chalked up to the inflammatory effect alcohol has on the body.
Put water at the top of your hangover helpers list. It’s key to helping you rehydrate. You also want to replenish potassium and magnesium, two electrolytes that are essential for proper muscle and nerve function that can be affected by alcohol. Some awesome potassium-rich foods include avocado, banana, citrus fruits, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, and yogurt. Magnesium-rich foods to reach for include dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, chicken, and dark chocolate. When it comes to beverages, coconut water is a great choice because it’s packed with electrolytes but without the added sugar, coloring agents, or other no-thanks additives you’ll find in commercial sports drinks.
Alcohol also causes your blood sugar to drop, which can make you weak and shaky. Starchy carbs like oats and whole grains can help get your blood glucose back on track and also provide important B-vitamins like vitamin B6 and thiamine that you lose when drinking. Since alcohol also depletes vitamin C levels, fruits and veggies help with that as well.
If your stomach feels off, take it easy with very high-fat or very high-fiber foods—they could make you feel worse. Ditch the sugar and artificial sweeteners and opt for naturally sweet foods. Working some protein into that first meal you eat will also help you stabilize. Eggs are a great option, but you could use egg whites if you need to take it easy on higher-fat foods until you feel up to it. An unflavored protein powder (try pea protein for a palatable, versatile plant-based option) is also handy if you’re feeling like you just want to throw some stuff in a blender.
Here are two easy recipes to help you recover from a hangover:
Sweet Potato and Spinach Frittata
We usually autopilot to omelets when we think about egg-and-vegetable breakfasts, but a frittata gets my brunch-at-home vote for the fact that you can let it cook in the oven while you shower (or lie in bed with the shades drawn until the timer goes off) and because you don’t have to worry about wrecking it when you try—and fail—to flip it without making a mess, something most of us have trouble with even when we’re firing on all cylinders.
- 1 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 medium sweet potato, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or to taste
- 8 eggs, beaten
- Optional: ½ cup grated organic sharp cheddar cheese or other flavorful cheese like goat or Parmesan
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a cast iron skillet*, heat oil over medium heat. Add the sweet potato and sauté 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the onion and continue to sauté until translucent, about 3 more minutes.
- Add the spinach and tomatoes, and cook until spinach is wilted and tomatoes are soft. Season with pink Himalayan salt.
- Meanwhile whisk the eggs and cheese (if using) together. Pour the egg-and-cheese mixture over the vegetables.
- Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are set, about 30 to 40 minutes. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing into wedges.
*If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can cook the potatoes and vegetables on the stovetop and then transfer to an oven-safe dish before pouring the egg mixture on top and baking.
Restorative Smoothie Bowl
If the idea of a hot breakfast makes you want to gag after an indulgent evening, try this delicious smoothie bowl recipe. You’ll get a balanced meal packed with electrolytes to help you get back to baseline.
- 8 ounces unflavored coconut water
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- 3 tablespoons or 1 scoop pea protein powder (or your favorite protein powder)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup ice
- ¼ cup rolled oats (optional)
- For garnish: cacao nibs, coconut flakes, melted coconut oil (optional)
- If using oats, soak for 20 minutes in the coconut water.
- Layer ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour smoothie into a bowl. If desired, top with cacao nibs, coconut flakes, and/or coconut oil, if using.
Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping people streamline their wellness routine and establish a balanced relationship with food and exercise. She received her Masters of Science in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, and a dietetic internship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Her writing has been featured in Forbes and Shape. Her book, The Little Book of Game-Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety, offers simple hacks that help her patients and clients reach their goals and nurture their mental, physical, and emotional health, even when life becomes hectic.