Hot toddies in cosy pub gardens. Champagne while opening presents. Mulled wine on the sofa. It’s common to consume a little more alcohol around the festive season, when there are more opportunities than usual to enjoy a drink or two (or three, let’s be real). Yet these days, more and more of us are looking for ways to create a healthier and more more mindful relationship with alcohol (over half of us, according to this recent poll). That includes not just cutting down our consumption, but also making savvy swaps: avoiding the most sugary culprits and choosing low-alcohol alternatives. We can also look more carefully at the food we’re eating before and after drinking. Here, nutritionist Kim Pearson shares her guide to healthier alcohol.
Healthier Alcohol: A Nutritionist’s Guide
Be More Mindful With Your Intake
- Stick to the recommended weekly intake: The government recommends that both men and women do not regularly exceed 14 units per week. What does that mean in real terms? 14 units does not mean 14 drinks! It’s the equivalent to six average strength pints of beer or cider, six small (175ml) glasses of wine or six double shots of spirit. We should all be aiming to consume no more than six drinks containing an average percent alcohol over the course of a week.
- Have at least two alcohol-free days per week: Whilst it’s not good to drink alcohol all in one go, it’s also good to give yourself alcohol free days. Aim to have at least two days per week when you give your body a rest and don’t drink at all.
- Plan your week: At the beginning of the week, write down when you’re going to have a drink and how many you’re going to limit yourself to. Keep your plan somewhere where you’ll see it to remind you to stay focused.
Consider What You Eat Before And After
In terms of what to eat before drinking, it’s best to avoid the bread basket or crisps and choose something containing a good amount of fibre and protein. My go-to is a high quality protein bar containing fibre such as Love Life Supplements Keto Collagen Bar – they’re handy to keep at home or in your bag if you’re heading for drinks after work.
As for the day after, avoiding highly processed and refined foods is key. Your body is dealing with the alcohol, the last thing you want to do is add to its load. Try poached eggs and avocado on sourdough with some grilled tomatoes on the side. Or if you prefer something sweet, go for a keto granola like Keto Hana which is nutrient dense and won’t wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels.
Find Healthier Alcohol Swaps
- Swap Baileys for a homemade version using coconut milk, cocoa powder, vanilla extracts, natural sweetener and whiskey.
- Swap beer for UNLTD alcohol free beer.
- Swap sparkling wine for Noughty’s alcohol free sparkling wine
- Swap demi sec Champagnes for Brut Nature or Extra Brut, which have less sugar.
- Swap sugar in homemade cocktails for a natural sugar free sweetener like xylitol.
- Swap shop bought mulled wine for homemade mulled wine made with xylitol instead of sugar – I have a recipe below.
Recipe: Sugar-Free Mulled Wine
- 1 bottle of red wine*
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon of whole, grated nutmeg
- 1 vanilla pod, sliced lengthways
- 2 thick slices of orange (peel included)
- Xylitol to sweeten (adapt quantity to your taste)
- 2 star anise
*Whilst you can use any red wine, a sturdier wine that can withstand heat is recommended. If in doubt, opt for a Merlot.
- Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan, apart from the star anise.
- Allow it to heat until hot, almost too hot to touch but not boiling. Turn the temperature right down and keep the pan on the heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Add the star anise five minutes before you remove it from the heat. Strain and serve warm.
Tip: If you don’t want to drink it straight away, allow your mulled wine to fully cool and decant into glass bottles. They would make a lovely addition to a Christmas hamper or to take with you if you’re invited for dinner.
Do remember to drink in moderation. This mulled wine recipe is sugar free and healthier than many available. That said, alcohol will still have the ability to compromise your weight loss and health when consumed in excess. So practice mindful drinking and keep an eye on how much you consume over the festive season.
If you feel as though you could benefit from professional guidance and a comprehensive approach that will help you establish healthy habits that stick long term, check out Kim Pearson’s website.