Most of us are looking forward to the happiness and joy of the holiday season, especially when we think about the fun of being with people we truly appreciate. As the events start coming and the repetition of spirited food and drink arrives, we have several suggestions for you on how to go about choosing healthier holiday drinks this season.
As far as the health benefits are concerned, many studies have hinted that alcohol, in moderation, can do a heart good. Yet, researchers that moderate drinkers are no less likely than teetotalers to have clear arteries. CT angiography, an imaging test that detects “plaques” in heart arteries, discovered that there was no association between people’s drinking habits and their odds of showing clogged vessels. These findings stand in contrast to past studies that have linked moderate drinking to a lower risk of heart disease.
At the same time, there was no evidence that heavier drinking raised the risk of clogged arteries. Groups like the American Heart Association do warn that excessive drinking can lead to a rise in blood pressure, and therefore, contribute to the risk of heart failure.
So, we are left to think that our choices will have more to do with our desire for a good night and a good day the next day, than anything else.
A few good holiday drink choices:
- Hot Cocoa – Wonderful choice after a day of shopping! Study shows that consuming 3 ounces of dark chocolate daily can increase your levels of serotonin and may lower blood pressure. Cocoa itself contains powerful antioxidants, as flavonoids, that reduce inflammation. A good drink and full of immune boosting power. Many dietitians enjoy melting a 70% cocoa bar and adding any low fat milk, which will cut fat and calories.
- Mulled Wine and Warm Red Wine Libations – Red wine just can not get enough good press. This includes hot glow and mulled wine. Studies show that these drinks have important antioxidants in them, as found in grapes—flavonoids and resveratrol. These agents will be helpful to reduce the affects of Alzheimer’s Disease or macular degeneration.
- Apple Cider with Cinnamon – Two powerful ingredients for your health. Phytochemicals found in apples may protect against colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Cinnamon has been well known for improving glucose and cholesterol levels.
- Eggnog – Can be found in low calorie versions. Rich in calcium, protein and lutein, an antioxidant that has been touted for preventing vision problems.
- Most Other Drinks – Regular bar drinks are fairly easy to figure but it is important that most medical consultants will refer to an alcohol equivalent as that of, 7-ounces of beer, just over 3-ounces wine, and 1.35 ounces liquor. Calories in these drinks will vary; with a range of about 100-150 calories per serving. Not really a big concern, unless other items are added such as sweet mixers or fruit juices for flavoring.
Recommendations for Adult Consumption of Alcohol:
Often it is a good idea for us to have a plan as to how much we would like to drink in an evening out. Often, friends will mention that they are making a special drink for a dinner party. All of these choices need to be calculated as “how to handle” before you go.
- Learn to enjoy some drinks and leave others.
- Keep yourself well hydrated.
- Also, try to arrange for milk or other dairy products before you go out.
- Stay with one or maybe two “selections” of drinks before you do any further switching.
- Lastly, do not feel badly about eating or drinking more than you set out to do, because it all takes practice over time.
- Do have an idea of how much you would drink and eat in an average evening, and try to stick to it.
- Food consumption late at night is a good indicator of your having had too much to drink. Calories increase and then the body needs additional calories to cover the new insulin level you have produced with the alcohol. You think you are really hungry, but truly what you are doing is covering the increase in insulin produced by drinking alcohol. This can take a full day. (My favorite food after a night out? Ground beef tacos!)
To simplify, remember these four basic tips:
- Monitor your intake
- Enlist family and friends
- Set a limit and keep track
- Eat along the way, and drink water every other drink
You may want to try drinks that include fruit juice and/or sparkling water to break down the impact of the alcohol. Many beverages are already broken down by water or other fluids before they are served, “Skinny” drinks have been enjoyed by many.
Again, many of these are your choice, as well as, how you want to feel the next day. Casually, I must say that I am not in favor of added shots to a drink menu for many reasons. And, all I can tell you is that they will shorten your night! Starting in school, most people have tried out beer and other spirits. Many of us have gotten a “feel” for the amount of and what will be best suited for you for a night out. Try to stick to our favorites and what you have come to enjoy over time.
Have a great holiday!
Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor
Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation