You may think it’s impossible to fit alcoholic beverages into a healthy nutrition plan, particularly at this time of year when the bounty of treats is tempting you at every turn.
The truth is, you can enjoy an occasional beverage without obliterating your diet.
Diana Bitner, MD, of the Spectrum Health Midlife and Menopause Health Clinic, served up five tips on how to imbibe a bit—while keeping health top of mind.
Stick to single serve
This means one glass of wine or one pint of beer, not the whole bottle or a super-sized stein. Admittedly, it can be tough to limit yourself to a single serving when a party goes on for hours, so consider cutting your glass of wine or mixed drink in half and adding club soda.
You now have two drinks to enjoy over the course of the event. A concession on this point: This approach may not be ideal when someone serves you a quality wine.
Go with red
Choose red wine over distilled spirits, beer or even white wine. Why? The potential health benefits increase, as red wine has antioxidants, tannins and resveratrol.
If red wine doesn’t work for you—or if you simply don’t like it—choose a mixer for your spirits, such as light cranberry juice (not cranberry juice cocktail with added sugar.) This offers you something colorful and tasty with a serving of fruit. Other non-caloric mixers are good choices, although most don’t offer any health benefits.
Alcohol can dehydrate you. Even one serving will have an effect on your body. After every alcoholic beverage, you should drink one 8-ounce glass of water to minimize dehydration.
You also can replace tap water or spring water with plain or flavored seltzer water, then add a twist of lime. You’ll think it’s a cocktail and you’ll avoid the alcohol and the calories. Start the night out with a glass of water, too. It helps curb your appetite and reduces the odds you’ll binge on the buffet.
If you know you’ll be drinking alcohol, be sure to include lean protein and a green salad or other vegetables in your meal that evening. Avoid simple carbohydrates.
As a simple carbohydrate itself, alcohol will increase your blood sugar level. This doesn’t mean you can replace all of the carbohydrates in your daily diet with wine—it only means you shouldn’t combine wine and other carbs during your holiday party.
If you’re drinking alcohol at a holiday party, relax and enjoy it. Be present in the moment and take pleasure in the treat.
With this mindset, you won’t feel compelled to drink in volume and you can truly enjoy your evening with friends and colleagues.