The Best and Worst Foods to Eat Before a Night of Drinking

What you eat now can make all the difference in how you feel later.

Close up of salted pretzels
Photo: Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

There's no question booze can do a number on your body, especially when you throw back a few too many (hello, awkward holiday happy hour!)—from bloating and brain fog to the all-out misery of a head-pounding hangover. But by taking a few precautions before the alcohol starts to flow, you can help minimize the damage, experts say. Here's what to eat (and what to skip) to prep you body for a big night out.

01 of 06

Best: Protein and healthy fats

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02 of 06

Best: Fruits and veggies

Most Americans don’t eat enough produce, and that’s bad news for our health overall. But fruits and veggies might be especially important if you’re planning to indulge in adult beverages. That's because these nutritious eats are a great way to stay hydrated: “Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants and vitamins you need to stay healthy, while providing a large dose of water as well,” Felty points out. Cucumbers, celery, and watermelon are some of the most hydrating picks.

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Best: Water

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Worst: Chocolate, tomatoes, and spices

Here's another reason to eat before you go out: Alcohol on an empty stomach can trigger irritation that leads to acid reflux, especially in someone who has GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or is susceptible to heartburn, Koob says. “Chocolate, tomato, and some seasonings may be irritants that increase reflux–and alcohol can contribute to that,” he says. Soda and fried food might also cause reflux; so before you imbibe, it's best to avoid those too.

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Worst: Caffeine

Need to make an appearance at a boozy gathering, but feeling totally wiped? You may be tempted to reach for a caffeinated pick-me-up. But caffeine and alcohol don’t always mix. The energizing effects of the caffeine “give you a sense that you’re not intoxicated, or not sleepy,” Koob says. That might lead you to drink even more–or to think that you’re sober enough to drive home when you’re actually not. “When the caffeine wears off, you could fall asleep on highway 95,” he warns. “It can be a dangerous combination.”

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Worst: Salt

Close up of salted pretzels
Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

If you load up on salty, processed snacks before indulging in adult beverages, you may find yourself bloated, Felty warns. The puffiness may be uncomfortable, but that's not the only potential consequence: Since bloating makes you feel full, you may be reluctant to down the H2O your body craves: “Bloat can have you drinking less water than you need to stay hydrated while drinking alcohol,” she says.

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