Are You Really Glad You Had That Last Drink?
With this festive season, here are some thoughts on drinking alcohol the healthy-ish way from Dietitians in Calgary.
The Case for Moderation
No one wakes up the next day after a holiday party and says, ‘I’m SO glad I had that last drink!’
I like to set a mindful intention before going to a party; for me, I want to feel good the next day.
To put this into practice, I simply switch to water or sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice after two or three drinks.
I want it to be realistic, and I know saying ‘I’ll just have one makes me feel like I’m missing out. Try picking a number that’s comfortable and realistic for you!
Andrea Hardy, Registered Dietitian, Owner of Ignite Nutrition.
Have a Drink if You Like, but Not for Heart Health
Alcohol in moderation may be associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, but unfortunately, the association isn’t causation, and the type of studies that connect alcohol to heart health can’t prove a cause-effect relationship.
Other factors, like socioeconomic status, may be contributing to those findings. Either way, the overall impact of alcohol on our well-being is small, debatable, and increasingly harmful, the more we drink.
No question, however, that the risks outweigh the benefits once you get past two (women) or three (men) drinks a day. And “drinks” poured in the real world are often more generous than what’s intended in health guidelines.
Switching to water, sparkling water, coffee, or spiced tea will help you feel better tomorrow and minimize your risk for cancer, liver disease, pancreatitis, and other alcohol-related health problems down the line.
Want to really boost heart health during the holidays? Enjoy a wintery walk with a friend, make a refreshing pomegranate salsa appetizer, or schedule a relaxing massage to unwind. Now that’s a merry Christmas.
Be aware of what motivates your drinking
If you find yourself using liquid courage more than you would like, try going to your next holiday event equipped with some of my favourite conversation starters from Science of People.
My top conversation picks are:
- Try and strike up a meaningful conversation by focusing on others.
- Explore what you have in common with others.
If these fail, you can always use my last resort, “If you were to have dinner with someone famous, who would it be?” An earnest smile is necessary for success. Good luck in your social adventures!
Alcohol Can Make Listening to Your Body Quite Challenging, So Have a Plan
I would normally say, ‘listen to your body’s cues.’ However, there is a catch with alcohol!
Alcohol affects the functioning of the brain, specifically in the area of the brain where emotions, decision making, thinking and the five senses are expressed.
This can actually make listening to your body quite challenging even with the best of intentions!
If you are heading into a party where you want to limit drinks, make a plan for yourself ahead of time.
- Alternate one drink with a glass of water or a mocktail to rehydrate.
- Adding in a break between drink orders by 30–40 minutes.
If these strategies don’t resonate, perhaps come up with others which feel right for you. It can feel empowered to make a plan and be in control of your own wellness decisions. Cheers!
Renee Little, Registered Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Owner of The Ambitious RD.
Remember that alcohol has calories just like food
Did you know that a large slice of pizza has similar calories to a pint of beer?
This calculator from Drink Aware allows you to tally the calories from your alcoholic drinks. It puts into perspective how many minutes of exercise it takes to burn equivalent calories, and what the equivalent calories look like as food.
Keep in mind that calories from drinks can count as much as food.
Lindsey McGregor, Registered Dietitian, Calgary-Based Dietitian, Owner of Calgary Dietitians.