For many, heading to happy hour on Friday at 6:00 p.m. is a fun way to socialize with co-workers and slip into the weekend. Sprinkle a bit of holiday cheer into the mix and it’s easy to overdo it. This time of year, liquor flows freely at company and family holiday parties, and New Year’s Eve is a party in its own right. Find out more about how to make healthy drinking choices this holiday season!
While nobody wants to hear it, the healthiest way to celebrate is to not drink alcohol. We avoid it on the Clean Program, along with sugar and coffee to give the liver a break while it’s busy eliminating toxins from the body. Off the cleanse, however, we don’t have it cut it out completely. It’s entirely possible to enjoy a festive cocktail or two while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
For those looking for a way to imbibe smarter this season, check out our guide to healthier drinking below.
When it comes to liquor, it’s best to choose light-colored alcohol over dark. Dark drinks like whiskey, brandy, and tequila have higher concentrations of congeners. These toxic compounds, which include methanol, isopentanol, and acetone, are formed when alcohol is fermented. Methanol, in particular, is associated with more frequent and intense hangovers. Clear drinks, like vodka, gin, and rum, have low levels of congeners. In fact, vodka doesn’t contain any at all.
In terms of calories, every brand of liquor is different. However, rum typically has the fewest with 96 calories per 1.5 ounces (Bacardi Superior). Gin is a close runner-up with 97 calories per 1.5 ounces (Hendrick’s). Vodka contains 101 calories per 1.5 ounces (Absolute).
It’s important to be mindful of your mixers, which can tack on extra calories and sugar. The healthiest choice is soda water, which has zero calories and sugar. However, research shows that consuming liquor with a carbonated beverage spikes your blood alcohol content to a higher level than when liquor is consumed alone, which means you’ll feel drunk faster.
In general, skip tonic water. A six-ounce glass has 16 grams of sugar. That’s almost as much sugar as an equal amount of Coca-Cola, which has about 20 grams of sugar. In addition to wreaking havoc on your body in the long term, sugar can make a bad hangover even worse.
Champagne is the number one alcoholic drink enjoyed during the winter holiday season, followed by wine and beer. If popping a bottle of bubbly is in your New Year’s Eve plans, we have good news. Champagne has several health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Research shows champagne has the same antioxidants that are found in red wine, which help protect against heart disease. Raising a glass of champagne could also lower your risk for stroke, diabetes, and dementia.
In terms of calories, champagne has 100 calories in a four-ounce glass. This makes it a less caloric choice than a glass of red or white wine. But remember, bubbly beverages go to your head faster than others and champagne often contains higher amounts of sugar.
While champagne may steal the spotlight on New Year’s Eve, wine is the most popular alcoholic drink on Thanksgiving. Whether you prefer a glass of white or red to wash down your turkey, enjoy in moderation. A five-ounce glass of red wine has about 125 calories, while white has 121 calories. Both have one gram of sugar.
If you drink wine for the health benefits, pour yourself a glass of red. Red wine grapes are fermented with the skins on, providing a rich color and beneficial antioxidants. White wine has some of these healthy plant compounds too but in lower amounts.
There’s nothing like cracking open a cold one at your favorite dive bar. But, you might want to limit yourself to just one. The average 12-ounce beer contains 150 calories and 13 grams of carbs. Pale ales are highest in calories, and lagers are a close runner-up. If wine and liquor are out of the question, opt for a light beer as a healthier choice. Miller Lite has only 96 calories and 3.2 grams of carbs. Additionally, if you are gluten-sensitive, either find a gluten-free beer or skip it entirely.
Of course, sometimes only a pint of Guinness will do. Luckily, beer isn’t completely lacking in health benefits. In addition to B vitamins in the brewer’s yeast used to ferment beer, stouts have antioxidants that boast similar health benefits to red wine.
The Bottom Line
While not drinking alcohol is the healthiest choice, there’s nothing wrong with sipping an alcoholic beverage or two in celebration of friends and family during the holiday season. Drink mindfully and remember how your choices at the bar will affect your health and wellness goals.
Written by Kate Kasbee
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