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The 5 Healthiest Ways of Drinking Alcohol

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Healthiest Ways of Drinking Alcohol

Incorporating alcohol into a healthy lifestyle can be a tricky balance, but can be possible. While a glass of wine with dinner or a craft beer can be enjoyable, excessive drinking can lead to negative health consequences. To enjoy alcohol healthily, moderation is key. However, many people may not know what constitutes moderate drinking or how to make healthier choices when it comes to alcohol.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends limiting consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women. However, many adults exceed these guidelines regularly.

Long-term excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, and stomach problems, as well as weakening the immune system and increasing the risk of certain cancers. Another study published in March 2022 in JAMA Network Open involving more than 370,000 individuals found that alcohol consumption (even modest amounts) can increase the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. To address these health risks, some people may choose to participate in Dry January or permanently adopt a sober-curious lifestyle.

Non-alcoholic, booze-inspired drinks are becoming more popular as an alternative.

When it comes to healthy drinking, it's not just about how much you drink, but also how often and the types of beverages you choose. According to Alcohol Aware, a pint of beer contains as many calories as a large slice of pepperoni pizza would (103 to 350 calories per 12 ounces). Most distilled alcohol, including gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey, contains between 97 and 116 calories per 1.5 ounces.

Cocktails often have the highest level of calories because of the sugary goodness that makes them taste so delicious – a Manhattan has around 160 calories per drink and a Cosmopolitan around 200 calories per drink, writes Esquire.

You also tend to eat more unhealthy food while and after drinking, resulting in more calorie intake. If that was not enough, alcohol consumption can also impact our metabolism and make weight loss more challenging.

Choosing drinks that are lower in sugar and calories, such as skipping sugary mixers and using a seltzer in place of a tonic, can be a healthier approach to drinking.

Ultimately, a healthy approach to drinking is part of a healthy approach to life. By being mindful of your consumption and making smart choices about what you drink, you can enjoy your favourite alcoholic beverages while still maintaining your overall well-being.

Here are a few ways to drink alcohol in a healthy manner

1. Knowing the right type of alcohol

When choosing an alcoholic beverage, some options are lower in calories than others.

Red Wine (105 Calories per 5 oz Serving)

Enjoying a glass of red wine with dinner has long been considered a “healthy” move because of its purported heart-healthy benefits. A dry red wine (like a cabernet sauvignon or Syrah) is one of the lower-calorie adult beverages you can reach for, Zanini says. A 5-ounce (oz) glass of red wine has about 105 calories.

Light Beer (96 to 100 Calories per 12 oz Serving)

If you’re in the mood for beer, go light. It’s another low-calorie option. You’ll save about 40 to 55 calories per 12 oz serving, compared with a regular beer.

Dry Vermouth (105 Calories per 3 oz Serving)

A 3 oz serving of dry vermouth contains 105 calories, according to MedlinePlus. And while you’ll generally find it mixed into a martini or a Manhattan, you can save calories by sipping it neat. Moreover, some research has found that dry vermouth contains significantly more polyphenols than white wine. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds in plants that have been shown to help regulate metabolism, weight, and chronic disease, according to a study published in 2018 in Frontiers in Nutrition. Keep in mind, however, that there haven’t been any peer-reviewed human studies on the health benefits of drinking dry vermouth, so it’s unclear whether this possible benefit outweighs the general risks of drinking alcohol.

Booze on the Rocks (About 100 Calories per 1.5 oz Serving)

Whether you’re into vodka or tequila, gin or whiskey, there’s no real difference in calories or carbohydrates — they all have about 100 calories in a 1.5 oz serving, according to MedlinePlus. Your best bet when sipping alcohol is to have it straight, or with sparkling water or club soda. That’s because a whiskey drink, for example, can quickly go from a 100-calorie drink to 300-plus when you add sugary, high-calorie mixers.

Champagne (85 Calories per 4 oz Serving)

You’ll save about 35 calories per serving by choosing bubbly over a sweet white wine, according to MedlinePlus. A 4 oz glass of champagne has 85 calories. And while that might not sound like much, it’s also possible that you’ll feel fuller and turn down that second drink as a result of the carbonation. Previous research found that women reported feeling more full after drinking sparkling water, compared with flat.

2. Limit high-calorie mixers

Avoid using high-calorie mixers such as regular soda, juice, and cream in your drinks. Tropical Cocktails do sound refreshing and tasty, but they are often loaded with the most calories. A Long Island iced tea, for example, will set you back about 500 calories in one 8 oz glass (that’s more calories than you’ll find in a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s).

When it comes to drinking, it's essential to be mindful of the calorie content in your choice of beverage.

Cocktails, such as a Manhattan or Cosmopolitan, tend to have high-calorie levels due to added sugar, with a Manhattan containing around 160 calories per drink and a Cosmopolitan around 200 calories per drink. Beer is also relatively high in calories, with an average of 149 calories per pint. Additionally, alcohol can disrupt blood sugar balance, leading to cravings for high-calorie foods, which can further contribute to calorie intake both during and after drinking.

3. Sip slowly: Sipping your drink slowly will help you consume fewer calories throughout the evening.

Rather than drinking a large amount all at once, spread your drinks out throughout the night. This can help you stay within your daily or weekly limits, and it can also help you avoid the negative effects of binge drinking. This is called Mindful drinking.

Mindful drinking is the practice of taking more time over your drink – sipping and savouring the complexities of it, rather than chucking it down your throat in an unnecessary rush.

4. Drink water or seltzer in between each drink, this will keep you hydrated and also slow you down in drinking.

It is important to keep hydrated while consuming alcohol, as alcohol is a dehydrating agent. To ensure adequate hydration, it is recommended to follow a one-to-one ratio of water to alcohol, consuming one 8-ounce glass of water for each alcoholic drink, according to Brian Fiani, D.O., attending neurosurgeon at Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and vice chair of the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Emerging Leaders.

5. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach: Eating a meal before or while you drink can slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.

It's very important to have a healthy and substantial meal before drinking alcohol.

This can help prevent excessive hunger and cravings for high-calorie foods later on. Drinking on an empty stomach can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels and can also affect brain chemistry, which can lead to poor food choices and overeating. It's important to listen to your body and give it the energy and nutrients it needs. Eating a meal that is rich in protein, fibre, and healthy fats before drinking can help control your hunger. If you decide to order food at the bar, try to avoid salty snacks as they can make you thirsty and lead to more drinking. If you're concerned about making healthy choices, you can also bring your snacks. The key is to be mindful of your body's needs and to make choices that support your overall health and well-being.

Drinking alcohol can also irritate the stomach, worsen acid reflux, and contribute to gastritis, Dr Kunza says. So, it’s a good idea to eat something before you drink or while you’re drinking.

To make it easier to reduce your alcohol consumption, it can be helpful to limit the amount of alcohol you have readily available. Instead of stocking up on alcohol in large quantities, consider purchasing it every week and sticking to the amount you've planned in your schedule. Keeping a diary of your alcohol intake can also help identify any unhealthy patterns.

It's important to have a positive attitude towards alcohol consumption and to understand the benefits of drinking less. Not only can it improve your physical health and well-being, but it can also be beneficial for your sleep and mental health, as well as your bank account. Taking a break from alcohol is beneficial for everyone and can be done for short periods such as a few alcohol-free days or longer like Sober October.


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