Everyone’s been there: It’s 3 a.m. and you’re stumbling around smelling like booze and bad choices. Well done. But now you’re starving and your decision-making skills are in rough shape (especially if it’s New Year’s Eve). The idea that a greasebomb meal will completely prevent tomorrow’s inevitable hangover is, sadly, a myth. But we talked to a bunch of professional nutritionists to see what someone can actually eat if they don’t want to cause too much more damage and hope to soften the blow the next morning. And don’t worry: The advice isn’t all wheatgrass and beet juice. Even the pros know that late-night binge-eating should be satisfying.
What You’re Craving: A Burger
What You Should Really Eat: A Peanut-Butter Sandwich
“Something with a lot of fat can take forever to digest and make you nauseated in the morning,” says Sarah Krieger, a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And David Grotto, the author of The Best Things You Can Eat, confirms: “Alcohol and fat don’t mix well. There’s no science to support the idea that burgers or fatty foods help you; in fact, they promote further dehydration.” Damn.
The best time to eat greasy foods is actually before you start imbibing, when they coat your stomach and slow down your absorption of alcohol. But it’s too late now. Though you’ll probably slip into a coma post-bacon-bender, it’s likely to stimulate your body and make you toss and turn throughout the night.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It, says that a peanut-butter sandwich, which is fatty-ish and still has some protein, is a good bet. An even better choice: Slice up a banana and fry the sandwich Elvis-style until it’s golden brown and gooey.
What You’re Craving: Pizza
What You Should Really Eat: Grilled Cheese
Taub-Dix recommends eating something with a limited amount of fat, protein, and carbs. “A grilled-cheese sandwich isn’t bad if you make it without the butter, and it’s even better if you add tomato,” she says.
Cheese, tomato, and bread: Hey, isn’t that the same as a slice? Not quite. Similar tastes — especially when you’re too sloshed to tell the difference — but there’s less grease and oil in your homemade sandwich. Plus, you get to eat it in your pajamas while watching The Shawshank Redemption ending on YouTube over and over. Or whatever it is you do when drunk.
What You’re Craving: French Fries
What You Should Really Eat: A Loaded Baked Potato
If you’re a drinking champ, you’re going to boot-and-rally and still crave a meal afterwards. When you get sick, your body loses potassium. But nobody (nobody!) wants a banana at this hour. Grotto endorses good ‘ol jacket potatoes. Pop one in the microwave; stuff it with a sour cream, Cheddar cheese, and Sriracha topping (the nastier the combination, the better); and enjoy. Plus one if you add mushrooms, which are one of Grotto’s top picks for drunken binge-eating, because they’re easy to digest and stocked with potassium.
What You’re Craving: Cereal
What You Should Really Eat: Cereal!
Cereal is actually one of the best choices for a late-night-snack-meets-early-breakfast, so go ahead and pour a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. “A light bowl of cereal with milk has fluids,” says Krieger, who also suggests adding nuts if you’re feeling ravenous.
“Carbohydrate-based foods are ideal because they also produce serotonin,” says Grotto. “That’s important because alcohol disrupts sleep.”
What You’re Craving: Cookies
What You Should Really Eat: A Fruit-Filled Dessert
Sugar doesn’t seem to be the absolute worst thing to eat in terms of your hangover. But per usual, sweets will keep you awake — and that only increases the chances of unfortunate sexting. All the experts pushed fruit — especially cherries, because they fight pain, and oranges, because they’re hydrating. Fair enough: Head to a diner and grab a slice of cherry pie. If you’re at home, keep some sorbet stocked in your freezer.
Also: Water, lots of water.
“When in doubt, concentrate on hydrating,” says Grotto. Turns out some late-night damage-control ideas really are true.