Top 9 Dietitian Tips for Enjoying Alcohol
Whether it’s holiday time, party time, or just a weekend “wine” down, plenty of people are concerned about how to enjoy a pleasant alcoholic beverage while preserving one’s health goals. Alcoholic drinks can be packed with sugar, fat, and calories, potentially weighing you down. Plus, research continues to support the importance of keeping those cocktails and glasses of wine under control for optimal health. It can be hard to stay on track with moderate drinking during special times of the year, from New Year’s Eve to pool parties to football season. So, I asked some of my favorite nutrition experts to give their best tips for staying in the spirit of health and celebration, while still drinking wisely.
Top 9 Dietitian Tips for Enjoying Alcohol
1. Stay hydrated with old-fashioned H2O. “Water is a winner when it comes to drinking in moderation. Not only does it make a great mixer for your cocktail, it also gives you something to sip between beverages. Create a spritzer by mixing carbonated water with your glass of wine or, sip on something simple such as a vodka and club soda,” says Heather Mangieri, Registered Dietitian and Owner of Nutrition Checkup.
2. Stick to one glass at a time. “Don’t keep topping off that wine glass. It’s so easy to lose track of how much you have consumed! Pour a glass (5 ounce). Enjoy. Follow wine with a glass of water and then, revisit the wine. It’s a nice cycle to keep track of how much alcohol and calories you have consumed!” says Caroline Susie, dietitian in Dallas specializing in corporate wellness.
3. Strategize before you drink. “Creating a plan before you arrive is a simple but strategic way to enjoy alcohol in moderation. You might decide to have a cocktail during the social hour and a glass of wine with dinner. By deciding in advance, and telling your partner or a friend, you can pace yourself while still enjoying your beverage of choice!” says Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD at Healthy Inspiration.
4. Savor your favorite drink. “I usually enjoy one cocktail. I know that more doesn’t last better, it’s just more. But that ONE sure does taste good! Then will have a sparkling water, such as La Croix. I appreciate when hostess has a non-alcoholic option,” says Registered dietitian Judy Barbe, and author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest.
5. Mix your drinks with sparkling water. “I like to have flavored, sparkling water available. And if I know I want to have more than one drink I will make them half strength (if possible – easier with mixed drinks!). I will normally do 1/2 shot spirit, mostly seltzer/club soda, and a splash of regular juice or soda. Or I sign up to be DD!” says Erin Burke, MS, RDN, LDN, blogging at Good Enough Nutrition.
6. Wine choice matters. “One of the best things I learned from a recent trip to Europe was how much more I enjoy lower alcohol wines and how much better they leave me feeling the next day. While a difference of 2% may not seem like a lot — between a 12% Chianti and a 14% Shiraz, for instance — the effect it has on you is noticeable. If you’re able to choose your own wines for holiday parties, etc., be sure to check the label. You’ll end up drinking “less alcohol” overall simply by choosing a wine with a lower alcohol content,” says Regan Jones, registered dietitian and host of This Unmillennial Life Podcast.
7. Start the night with a glass of water. “When you arrive to a holiday party, drink water before having a cocktail. Chances are you are dehydrated, so you would drink the cocktail too fast if you start with it. By drinking water first, you hydrate and slow down your drinking, making your alcoholic beverage last longer,” says Kristi Coughlin, MS, RDN, LD of KC Nutrition, LLC.
8. Eat before you drink. “Don’t show up to the party on an empty stomach. If you’re hungry and thirsty upon arrival, it’s easy to get tipsy quicker than planned, even if you do moderate your alcohol intake at the party. Have a small protein and fiber-rich snack about 1-2 hours before the event to put something in your stomach (apple with peanut butter, anyone?). Also, when you’re at the party, make sure to swap out a few rounds for water or seltzer, especially when you’re talking and catching up with friends. It’s easy for beverages to go down quicker when we’re chatting up a storm, so alternating non-alcoholic beverages will be a power move,” says Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT creator of the couples nutrition blog Nutrition Nuptials.
9. Keep the alcohol portion in check with dilution. “One of my best tips is with the spirits! I know many RDs have dined with me and laughed when I order a shot of tequila and glass of club soda, but, I can keep the actual portion in check of the spirit without getting 2-3 times that amount in a well drink. Mix that into a club soda, add a lemon and lime and viola, a healthy, hydrating drink!” says Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, of Simple Swaps.
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Main image: Cucumber Herb Champagne Sparkler, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN