The late-night takeaway is as much a drunken tradition as texts to an ex. But of course, if you eat crap, you feel crap.
However health-conscious you consider yourself during daylight hours, chances are your preferred post-session snack is only compounding your hangover.
Shona Wilkinson, a nutritionist at SuperfoodUK, has helped us rank the 10 most popular dirty dinners – from bad to, well, very bad – while finding out what happens to our insides when we give in to grease cravings. Spoiler: just like your sent messages, it isn’t pretty.
10. Chicken Kebab
Chicken is a tricky meat, especially when it’s been festering on an open rotisserie for three days. If willing to take the plunge (let’s face it, you’re eight pints in, of course you are) and the takeaway doesn’t look too dodgy, a Turkish chicken kebab will pay dividends hangover-wise.
“There’s a great amount of protein here without the carb overload,” explains Wilkinson. “That’ll reduce your blood sugar swings and cravings for fatty or sugary foods the next day. Plus, it’s likely to have fewer calories.”
9. Lamb Curry
Providing you’ve admitted defeat at a reasonable hour, a still-open curry house can be a blessing in disguise, and not just for a grumbling stomach.
“Similarly, there are lots of protein here, plus some naturally-occurring fats from the meat, which is always preferable. These will both help balance blood sugar. Just go easy on the rice and naan bread.”
8. Greggs Steak Bake
For a lucky few up in the Midlands and North of England, late night Greggs isn’t a mythical unicorn, but a sweet, sweet reality. Those blessed enough to have enjoyed a night out in these areas are likely to have sought sanctuary at this most hallowed of eateries. International readers, you’ll have to take our word for it.
“Surprisingly, not too bad a drunken indulgence, considering the stigma,” says Wilkinson. “A Steak Bake contains around 400 calories, which is fairly modest. Plus, you’re getting a good balance – protein to help balance blood sugar and a few carbohydrates.”
7. McDonalds Big Mac
Despite knowing what you’re about to eat boasts the nutritional value of a toenail, there’s nothing like the warm, fuzzy (and strangely sweet) taste of a McDonalds Big Mac post-pub.
“Most would expect a Big Mac to be much further down the list,” says Wilkinson. “However, we do have some idea about the meat quality, and there’s a decent amount of protein that’s modest in carbohydrate content too – but only if you skip fries and Coke, which is unlikely. It’s hardly nutritious, but you could do a lot worse.”
6. Chicken Chow Mein
Now we’re getting into murky territory. The local Chinese takeaway is probably a lot less stringent on hygiene than a global franchise, and the mystery origin of that rubbery ‘chicken’ is best left unsolved.
“The main concern here is MSG,” says Wilkinson. “The additive can cause hangover-like effects, and that’ll only add to your banging headache the next day. Also, a big serving of noodles will stimulate a sugar rush that can disrupt sleep and cause cravings the next day.”
5. Doner Kebab
Doner kebabs are one of life’s great mysteries. We rarely question where the hunk of meat spinning on the pole has come from, nor do we wonder why it tastes like nothing of this earth.
Wilkinson shares the sentiment: “The questionable source of these meats and the quality is a worry, especially if you opt for a large portion. If you can’t trust it, don’t eat it.”
4. Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is everywhere, cheap and always open should you fancy a Kentucky bite at 5am. It’s also pretty bad for you.
“There’s an overload of unhealthy fats here from cheap vegetable oil. Not ideal when, if anything, your body is crying out for healthier fats to temper the effects of alcohol,” says Wilkinson. “Such fats promote inflammation, and will worsen your hangover the next day.”
3. Battered Sausage
Making it to the chippy before closing time is a success akin to winning an Olympic gold when you’ve been hitting the sauce all day. Though, if your boozed-up snack of choice is the chippy’s holy grail, the battered sausage, you might want to reconsider.
“Battered sausages inflict the same effects as fried chicken, if not worse,” says Wilkinson. “Cooking oil is usually cheap, and the meat suspicious, which means you’re ingesting a large amount of poor-quality fat.”
2. Topped Chips
Gravy for northerners; curry sauce for southerners; heart disease for everyone. Although a portion of chips drowned in sauce seems unremarkable, the effects are more insidious than you’d think.
“The body will experience a massive carb-fest,” says Wilkinson. “There are fewer calories here. However, there’s no protein to temper alcohol absorption. Add this to alcohol, and your blood sugar will spiral overnight and well into the next day.” Short version: you’ll feel crap.
1. Meat Feast Pizza
The juggernaut of boozy dinners is also the foulest, and the triple-threat of calories, saturated fat and sodium will have even the hardiest Man VS Food fans waving a white flag.
“In short, they’re disgusting,” says Wilkinson. “There’s an obscenely high content of carbohydrates. Then there are the calories – at least 1,000 or more. The meat is likely to be of a seriously poor quality, you will store this fat, and you’ll feel three times as horrendous the next day. I just can’t ever advise eating this.”