While moderate alcohol consumption has been correlated with health benefits like reducing your risk of heart disease, we all know alcohol itself definitely doesn’t count as a health food (or bev.) But since poolside frosé and barbecue season is here, let’s be real about the fact that many of us are going to enjoy drinking a few margaritas.
If you’re like us and love to indulge in a happy hour here and there, we’ve got a few tricks to keep yourself in check and make sure drinking doesn’t leave you with regrets the next day.
Our take on the great drinking debate is that it’s perfectly fine to responsibly enjoy a cocktail or two, so long as you don’t allow it to get in the way of living a healthy lifestyle. We want to bring the same level of mindfulness to our drinking habits as we do with the other choices in our lives. This means learning how to drink without sacrificing your health, so you can get up and still make it to your workout in the morning or be on your A-game at work. Read on for our tips on how to enjoy a few drinks this summer while still prioritizing living your healthiest, best life.
“By the time most people get to a happy hour, they’re starving. Ordering a veggie platter with hummus and pita is always a great option because it has fiber and protein, and won’t lead you to consume tons of fried foods like French fries and onion rings,” says Dr. Shilpi Agarwal. Drinking on an empty stomach has been shown to get people drunk faster, which could lead to more drinking as the night goes on and feeling sick.
Before consuming alcohol, make sure you fuel up on good quality foods with protein –if you have protein in your stomach, the alcohol will be absorbed more slowly. The trick is to be smart about what you’re eating, and to avoid letting alcohol-induced inhibitions sway you toward fattier foods like a cheeseburger or pizza… (#guilty).
Take water breaks.
It’s easy to pound two or three drinks without realizing how much you’ve had, especially in large social settings or at dinner if the wine is freely flowing. To limit your alcohol intake, start with drinking a big glass of water with lemon. If you have more than one drink, order another glass of water and finish it before you have your second cocktail.
I also like to order a side of sparkling water to sip on throughout my meal, so I’m not washing down food with alcohol and can remain mindful about how much I’ve had. Drinking the same amount of water (or more) as you do in alcohol will force you to stay hydrated and limit going overboard on booze.
Skip the sugar.
Many cocktails, wine, and mixers are notoriously high in sugar. Drinking fruity mixed drinks can increase your risk of hangover, raise blood pressure, lower your metabolism, and make you consume nearly triple the calories you would with a sugar free option. When you’re selecting your drink of choice, avoid cocktails with pre-made mixers, added sugar, honey, agave syrup, and the like.
When in doubt, order a “skinny” version, or stick with soda water with a lime or a piece of fruit –such as an orange or a grapefruit slice –as your main mixer.
If you’re going for cocktails, opt for clear liquor over dark. Dark liquors like whiskey and scotch have higher concentrations of congeners, which are toxic compounds formed during distillation and fermentation. These pesky compounds have been shown to increase the severity and likelihood of a bad hangover the next day.
Our go-to drink of choice? A silver tequila (Casamigos Blanco, if we’re getting specific) mixed with soda water and plenty of lime. If you’d like to spice it up a little, ask the bartender to add in some muddled jalapeño peppers and a little Tajin to the rim of the glass. Don’t forget to order an extra soda water on the side to sip on in-between drinks or wash down your meal!
…Or go for Vino.
“At around 120 calories per glass, red or white wine is a great option for a happy hour because it takes longer to drink than a mixed drink and has more antioxidants than the typical vodka-soda or other mixed drinks,” Dr. Agarwal suggests. Although some wines can be packed with sugar (up to 40g a bottle!), good sulfite-free reds have a few proven health benefits, which are believed to come from high concentrations of the antioxidant resveratrol. Studies have shown that the antioxidant may be able to lower bad cholesterol while boosting good cholesterol, as well as reduce the risk of depression, cancer, and diabetes.
Day drink with caution.
Weekends can sometimes turn into finding just about any excuse to prolong drinking over the course of the day, especially if you’re out by the pool. The key is pacing yourself, and drinking in moderation. Choose drinks that are lower in overall alcohol content like light beer or wine, to avoid overconsumption and keep you in check. Don’t forget to fuel up on high quality foods — celery, carrots, nuts, vegetables, and good carbs and protein– while you drink.
Also, keep count of how many drinks you’ve had so overconsumption doesn’t sneak up on you. Take breaks and switch to sparkling water or lemonade for a few hours or for the rest of the day. And remember, sipping water between drinks is another great way to slow down the count.
Only you can know your limits, and the key to staying healthy when it comes to drinking is sticking to what you know deep down is the best choice for you. It’s a balancing act that starts with you making the choice to prioritize your health, while still living life #likeyoumeanit.
Cheers to a healthy, happy summer!