When I’m hungover, I crave one thing, and one thing only: Giant, steaming piles of greasy fast food. This is a problem, because I’m on a diet that doesn’t exactly allow me to binge on three burritos, two quesadillas and however many tacos I can stomach every time I get blackout drunk and wake up feeling like Satan himself is drilling my skull in half with an iron rod.
But what can I eat when I’m hungover that’s both healthy and satisfies these cravings? According to the experts: Not a whole lot. “It’s important to go right back into a healthy routine and not let last night’s overindulgence spiral into a week of them,” explains registered dietitian nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein. “Start the day fresh with a smart and filling breakfast.”
As boring (and unappetizing) as that sounds, Muhlstein is kind enough to provide a few healthy options for both feeling fuller and tackling the hangover. “A good choice would be my cheesy eggs and toast recipe,” she says. “When you include dark, leafy greens, like spinach and kale, you benefit from their chlorophyll and magnesium, which can ease stress and improve mood. Chlorophyll is also very alkalizing to the body—it helps detoxify itself from harmful acids caused by alcohol (and the junk foods that one might have eaten while drinking). These dark greens also are high in iron, which promotes oxygen circulation and blood flow to the brain that can help alleviate headaches and an achy body.”
If a plate of kale doesn’t sound appealing when what you wanted was a bacon fat milkshake, here’s a different option: “Another great breakfast would be my banana-egg pancakes,” Muhlstein says. “Bananas are a perfect hangover remedy: They contain potassium and magnesium, which can relax muscles, and they contain pectin, a natural digestive aid. Bananas also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan that later gets converted to serotonin, a relaxing neurotransmitter.”
Of course, you can also make your own variation of these dishes using the same (or similar) ingredients.
Now, if you’re on a specific diet—paleo, low-carb, etc.—Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, has some individualized (and, for the most part, unfortunate) advice for eating on those hungover days:
- Paleo: “The Paleo diet is essentially a low-carbohydrate diet that tends to stick to single-ingredient foods,” Hunnes explains. “When we’re hungover, we’re actually experiencing some hypoglycemia [low blood sugar], in which case, I’d argue that a low-carbohydrate diet isn’t going to be beneficial.” That’s because carbs can quickly increase your blood sugar, which would help reduce the effects of a hangover. That said, Hunnes explains that eating unprocessed foods—which are often part of a Paleo diet—is always beneficial.
- Low-Carb: “Similar to Paleo, low-carb diets might not be the best choice,” Hunnes say. “However, a healthy low-carb diet, full of fresh produce, would be healthier and better for a hangover.”
- Intermittent Fasting: “I wouldn’t probably recommend intermittent fasting when hungover,” Hunnes emphasizes. “Your body is already fighting hypoglycemia and dehydration, and intermittent fasting might make you feel way worse.”
- Vegetarian/Vegan: “A vegetarian diet could be beneficial if it isn’t filled with processed food, but rather, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Hunnes says. “All of those nutrients—especially the B vitamins prevalent in grains and leafy greens—would be wonderful to cure a hangover.”
All in all, healthy eating when you’re hungover boils down to the same nutritional advice we hear time and time again: Eat more fruits and vegetables. “I don’t know why people believe that a fatty diet is good for a hangover,” Hunnes says. “Our body is really craving fluids, vitamins and produce when we’re hungover.”
*Accepts defeat, then shamefully places an order for fast food*