Diary / Wellness / Sep 26, 2022

5 Things to Avoid at Happy Hour

Written by: Lauren Slayton

Photography by: Henry Leutwyler

When I have clients that stop socializing in the name of health, I always tell them: we don’t want you skinny if it means living your life in a box. There is always a spectrum of choices when it comes to food and drink — and if you’re going to drink, you should be aware of the dos and don’ts. I may be a nutritionist, but I’m also a Tulanian and the daughter of someone who presented waiters with his laminated “martini card.” I’m with you on this. At Foodtrainers, it’s never been about changing your lifestyle to fit a food plan. Our food plan will fit your lifestyle. Here is my list of five things I tell my clients to avoid when grabbing a drink at happy hour.


Tonic water has the same sugar content as cola, but everyone knows to skip cola. I don’t know why tonic gets a pass. Is it because it’s clear? Looks like seltzer? You just can’t have a “G” without “T”? Well, now you know and tonic can go.


Sangria feels festive. The fruit, the wine, the pitcher — olé! But sangria is a mix of wine, fruit juice and often soda (Sprite is commonly used). It’s really a sugar bomb, and did I mention it often comes in pitchers?

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup, agave and sugar are a cocktail’s dirty little secret. These ingredients are rarely listed in drink descriptions on menus, but fairly ubiquitous at bars. Definitely ask questions and feel free to order your drink with “no syrup.” The margarita, for example, should only be three ingredients: tequila, fresh lime juice and a smidge of orange liqueur (typically Combier or Cointreau, and there’s an organic version from Fruit Lab that’s great too). And yet, most margaritas use syrup or agave.


Campari always seems like a summer-y, refreshing, light drink. Campari is a bitters, and that part is healthy, but the problem comes with the red color. Campari used to be colored with a natural color derived from beetles, but now uses artificial color in the US (in Sweden and Mexico it’s still beetles). While technically Campari is now vegan, food dyes definitely have no place in food or cocktails.


If you’re going to drink, have one and be done. Order something strong and nurse it as knowing there is no encore. Second drinks seem to encourage poor food decisions and affect your sleep. Second drinks will also impede weight loss, if that’s your goal.

*Lauren Slayton, MS RD is the founder of Foodtrainers and the author of the book The Little Book of Thin (Perigee 2014). *

Diary / Wellness / Sep 26, 2022

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