End of year holidays mark a time to eat, drink and be merry. I usually always focus on the eating part… today, I’m going to focus on the drinking part! Of course, not all drinks are created equal. Alcoholic drinks can be packed with sugar, fat and calories, weighing you down as the holidays progress.
Calories from alcohol are known as ‘empty calories’ as they fail to provide nutrients that our body requires to perform important physiological functions. These calories tend to add up quickly because they are consumed in liquid (and sometimes concentrated) form. Because the feeling of hunger is not suppressed by alcohol, we usually don’t compensate by reducing our food intake. In fact, alcohol is an excellent appetite stimulant (yes, we are all guilty of those midnight pizza stops after a night out). Thus, our overall energy (or calorie) intake can actually increase quite significantly!
It is super important to acknowledge the effect of alcohol on, not only on the body, but also behaviours and associated health risks. Here are some of my tips to enjoy all things boozey in a responsible and healthy manner:
Slow down, Joe! Start drinking later. You don’t have to be the first to drink so don’t rush into it, especially if it is going to be a long day or night ahead.
Pour beverages into glasses as opposed to drinking from tall cans. Speaking of glasses, use a tall skinny glass for your cocktails and beers. The visual illusion of having a tall glass will make you think you are drinking more than you actually are.
Water Water Water! Start the night with a glass of water and space drinks with water in between. This helps to slow down alcohol consumption and promotes hydration. It also makes a great mixer for your cocktail. Create a spritzer by mixing carbonated water with your glass of wine, or spirits such as vodka. This is a good option if you know you are going to have more than one drink, and the extra hydration will certainly help with the hangover the next day.
Avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. Have a small protein and fibre rich snack about 1-2 hours before. Don’t aim to save calories by skipping meals.
Most importantly, stay safe over the holiday season and do not drink and drive.
So which drink should you drink? To be honest, there is not one best drink. It is very much dependent on you – your health status, your physical activity levels, medications you may be on… there are a lot of factors to take into consideration! On a general level, red wine is associated with cardiovascular health benefits as it contains resveratrol (an antioxidant), and white spirits such as gin or vodka mixed with water, or sparkling water or a low calorie sugar free beverage are good ways to avoid excess calories and sugar.
Dietitians talk a lot about moderation. Currently, the American Heart Association has recommended capping it off at 2 drinks for males and 1 for females. So, drink in moderation and enjoy a glass of red wine or a light beer with friends in your social settings this summer.