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Healthy Menu Navigator: Happy Hour

What should you steer clear of besides the Cosmos? Here's how to eat healthy at any cocktail party or happy hour.
(Photo: Model Mayhem)
(Photo: Model Mayhem)


Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.

Enter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinal211Last time, it was what to eat at a resort buffet over spring break. This week, it’s how to navigate all the little dishes offered at a happy hour—and tempting happy hour prices! Here’s what you need to know before you freshen your face and head out for the bar after work.

Heather Bauer’s cocktail party navigational nugget

Have a small healthy snack before you leave the office. “Then you’re not ravenous when you walk in,” Bauer explains, and will naturally have a higher tolerance and not feel woozy from one glass. This goes for any cocktail party. When you arrive, start with a glass of water and then have a cocktail. Lastly, Bauer advises to “avoid wine, which is continuously poured. Go for gluten-free vodka on the rocks, which no one is going to breezily top off for you.”



1. Shrimp or oysters—protein packed, just go easy on the sugary-salty cocktail sauce.

2. Olives. A pop-in-your-mouth party favorite that nutritionists love.

3. Tomato mozzarella skewers. Mozzarella is one of the cleaner cheeses, sans soaked in olive oil, that is.


1. Two slider burgers—go topless (aka ditch the top bun). Or meatballs. A Paleo-ista’s delight.

2. One slice of (thin) crust pizza. Sorry, no deep dish with your alcohol, people.

3. Roasted baby vegetables—make a meal of these tasty tapas.


1. Cosmos or premixed drinks. Those skinny Sex and the City girls are fooling you, they’re sugar packed!

2. Gin and tonic. Best to go for the soda water.

3. The cheese and nut plate. Totally delicious, and totally impossible to stop snacking on.

Hungry for more? Check out Bauer’s guides to ordering at a gastropub or classic American diner.