Ask any late-night delivery guy, and he'll confirm what experts have gone to great lengths to prove: The more alcohol you drink, the hungrier you get—for pizza, cheese fries, nachos, street meat, or, if you took that last tequila shot, perhaps all of the above.
Not surprisingly, science suggests that alcohol stimulates the appetite in a way that makes you crave high-fat, salty foods. While classic drunk foods like pizza, French fries, nachos, and grilled cheese fit the bill, salty foods can enhance the dehydrating effects of alcohol, while fatty foods take extra long to digest, so your body has to focus on digesting food instead of metabolizing alcohol to sober you up.
Another thing: You really shouldn't eat massive portions right before you lie down. It's a recipe for indigestion, a shitty night's sleep, and often, an especially terrible hangover—particularly if you house any of the foods you should never eat while you're drunk. But everyone knows there's no hope when the drunk munchies hit—especially if you ate dinner hours earlier. So try to stumble toward these better-for-you drunk foods wherever your evening takes you:
At Home, Eat:
1. Whole Wheat Crackers: Crackers contain whole grains made up of complex carbs that help absorb alcohol, and B vitamins, an ingredient that gets depleted when you drink alcohol and is known to worsen hangovers, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian based in Cleveland, Ohio. While you may be inclined to smear those crackers with a little peanut butter, resist the urge if you can. Peanut butter is super high in fat, which is difficult to digest right before bed—especially if your smear turns into a spoonful and ends in an empty jar. Opt for hummus, instead; it's just as dippable, but lower in fat.
2. Whole Wheat Toast: If finish your crackers during the pregrame, dry whole wheat toast or pita bread are perfect alternatives, Jamieson-Petonic says. Just avoid butter or margarine—like peanut butter, these spreads are high in fat. Hummus or jam are better bets. (Just don't let your buzz convince you to combine those two.)
3. Microwave Popcorn: Sometimes your drunk self really just requires something salty. When sweet or savory won't do, popcorn will deliver without all the fat in chips or fries. Also, popcorn is full of fiber, and it's relatively low in calories, so you can eat a lot of it without doing too much damage. While air-popped is ideal, Jamieson-Petonic says oil-free microwave popcorn is a close second.
4. Oatmeal: Small portions of soft foods like cooked cereal are easy to digest, says Rosalind Breslow, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and an epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health's Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Maryland. Make a packet of instant oatmeal to keep your portions reasonable. (You can always make a second one!) And add chopped apple (Cut carefully!) or nuts for a little extra crunch.
5. Cereal With Low-Fat Milk: If you're not an oatmeal person, whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk contains the same good stuff in the carb-rich snacks above.
6. Rice: Plain sticky rice is super easy to digest. Save the fried rice and heavy dishes like deep-fried sesame chicken for tomorrow though.
At a Restaurant, Order:
7. Pancakes: If you're the kind of person who drunk eats breakfast food, pancakes aren't a bad option—just avoid high-fat butter and go easy on the syrup.
8. A Waffle: Same deal as pancakes: They're made of carbs that can sop up alcohol, and they're absolutely delicious.
9. Soup: Avoid creamy soups like corn chowder and cream of mushroom. They're higher in fat than clear, broth-based soups like chicken noodle, vegetable, and miso.
10. A Grilled Vegetable Panini: Paninis are grilled, not fried in butter or oil like the grilled-cheese sandwich you typically order.
At a Fast-Food Joint, Order:
11. A Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Go for grilled meat over deli meats, which tend to contain more sodium, and skip the cheese and mayo to cut fat out of the equation. When they ask if you want fries with that, opt out or at least find a friend to split a small order.
At a Convenience Store:
12. A Banana: It's a great source of potassium, an electrolyte that gets depleted when you booze it up.
13. Baked Tortilla Chips: They'll satisfy your salty cravings with plenty of crunch and less fat and sodium than serious nachos.
At a Pizza Place, Order:
14. Veggie Pizza: Admittedly, it's practically impossible not to do a pizza run when you're out with a pack of hungry friends. If your night ends at a pizza shop, all hope is not lost. Get a veggie slice without the cheese or (second best) a piece of white pizza without the acidic marinara sauce that can aggravate acid reflux and heartburn. Just blot the cheese with a napkin to remove some of the fat.
Water! OK, so this isn't a food. But drinking water, a low-calorie sports drinks, or diluted fruit juice (half apple juice, half water) will help provide the body with necessary fluids and replace electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Skip coffee or caffeinated soda though—contrary to what you might think, Jamieson-Petonic says caffeine can delay recovery.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been mad eby the Cosmo.ph editors.