Whatever your tipple–whether you’re a wine lover, beer drinker or avid vodka, soda and lime fanatic—you’re likely aware that alcohol isn’t exactly the healthiest part of your diet, however it is an enjoyable treat for many.
But, how do you integrate it in a more healthy way? We spoke with Amy Giannotti, dietitian and trainer at Eating Fit to get her take on all things boozey. Here’s what you need to know about the impact of alcohol on your health, and some tips for incorporating it into your diet in the healthiest way possible.
The impact of alcohol
It’s super important to acknowledge the effect of alcohol on not only the body, but also behaviours and associated health risks.
Amy acknowledges that for women who suffer from depression, anxiety, poor sleep, are trying to lose weight, increase fitness or trying to conceive, regular and high intakes of alcohol will not be helpful. On the other hand however, totally restricting or banning alcohol all together may become stressful and lead to binging followed by feeling of guilt, regret and a feeling of a lack of self-control. We know this can become a viscous cycle negatively impacting physical, mental health and social health.
Amy describes alcohol as a ‘sometimes’ drink—meaning it’s a treat, but shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet, or used as an emotional crutch during stressful situations.
Start drinking later. You don’t have to be the first to drink, so start with a soda water and fresh lime, hydrate and don’t rush into it, especially if its going to be a long day or night ahead.
Between every drink have a glass of water or again soda and fresh lime. Many will think you are drinking it with vodka, so this might reduce the peer pressure and offerings from others to get you another drink. You also have something in your hand, so this can prevent mindless drinking of alcohol and help with the hangover the next day.
Eat before you drink and snack throughout, especially if it’s a long day. Many people aim to ‘save’ calories by skipping meals but this can just lead to consuming more alcohol overall, increasing the overall harmful effects of alcohol and contribute to high energy and processed foods later in the night and the next day.
Decrease the strength of your drinks. If you have the ability (i.e. you are at home or pouring your own drink), half the serving size or dilute the drink with water or ice—perfect for if you’re drinking wines or spirits.
But which to drink?
According to Amy, there is no one size fits all best drink, just like there is no one healthy food or diet. There are many factors to consider including an individual’s current health status, budget, availability, likes and dislikes, what they have eaten that day, the occasion, body composition and training goals.
On a general level, red wine is the drink that’s associated with the most health benefits thanks to its high levels of antioxidants, and white spirits (vodka and gin) with soda water and lemon or lime are a good way to avoid excess calories, sugar and artificial sweeteners that come with other spirits and mixers.
Don’t give in to peer pressure
If you don’t want to drink that is 100% OK! Be confident in your decision not to drink and if people try to pressure you into drinking briefly explain your goal or reason (but don’t feel pressured to provide an explanation —“I don’t feel like it” IS an adequate excuse), and ask for their support! If they continue to pressure you, you know they are not a good friend and you can choose to ignore them. It is often an insecurity in someone if they force drinking upon unwilling others.