When I’ve watched friends—with greater willpower than I have—take a month or more off drinking, most tell me that they not only feel better but end up losing some weight, too. And perhaps that’s not just because they’re laying off the beer and sugary cocktails, but because they’re not indulging in the post-drinking noshing that a new survey finds adds up to an average of 800 calories per late-night meal.
A Rehabs.com survey of nearly 6,000 Americans found that drinkers are most likely to visit, in order: Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Waffle House, and Denny’s after a night out. (Hopefully they’re not taking advantage of the drive-thrus.) The Independent points out that while Taco Bell offers some of the lowest-calorie options of those restaurants, the average tipsy customer still orders about 700-730 calories’ worth of food. Fast food results in, perhaps surprisingly, fewer calories consumed on average than a sit-down meal at a Waffle House (949 calories for women; 1,009 calories for men).
And the extra calories at a Waffle House don’t add up to a better morning the next day, either: The survey also found drinkers who headed for a late-night Waffle House trip were more likely to rate their hangovers as “severe” the following day versus people who ate at McDonald’s or Taco Bell.
Essentially, our drunken munchies are providing us empty calories without any hangover relief—not exactly a pretty picture. How can we combat our tipsy inclination to beeline for greasy food? I sometimes try to preemptively set myself out some healthy(ish) snacks before I go out for the night—when I come home and find the cheese and crackers and fruit plate I made for myself, I’m more likely to eat that in laziness instead of stumbling to the nearest fast-food place. Rarely, though, would I say that an aged cheddar and apple slice hit the spot the way a McFlurry would.