The holiday season is fast approaching. With it comes parties, events, festivities, and of course –  indulgences.

We can all agree the winter holidays are a fun, fast-moving time. However, the stress that comes with wrapping up the end of the year and prepping for the one to come, may have you worried about maintaining your health goals. And let’s face it, we’re all going to want to loosen up and have a drink or two. 

The question is…how can you balance the booze and a healthy lifestyle during this time?

The holidays often have us splurging a little more than normal, in more ways than one. Fighting those urges is no easy feat when dazzling spreads of food and festive-themed cocktails are tempting you. BUT there are ways to enjoy alcoholic drinks without completely letting go of your health. 

Let’s talk about some ways you can enjoy alcohol in a healthier way during this celebratory time.

This blog post is brought to you in partnership with PRESS Premium Alcohol Seltzer

Preventing Hangovers and Prepping Your Body for a Night Out

Nourishing your body before drinking is the best thing you can do to prevent hangovers. Alcohol aggravates your digestive system and causes inflammation, so it’s important to put foods and liquids in your body that will have you starting from a solid place. Sometimes even the best prep, can still have you feeling uneasy the next morning. Alcohol affects everyone differently, so there’s no “one size fits all approach” to manage levels of intoxication. Understanding the factors that influence how alcohol affects us individually, can help you make the best choices for yourself.

They include…

• Gender
• Body size and composition
• How quickly you drink
• What type of alcohol you drink
• How much you ate before you started drinking
• Use of medication and drugs

Obviously, altering some of these factors is impossible. But there are things you can control to manage your level of intoxication and enjoy drinking responsibly.

The best thing to do?

The best thing to do?

Take Your Time: Listen to your body! What feels good for someone else may not feel good for you. If you feel like you’re getting too close to the edge, stop and opt for water. 

Celebrity trainer and fitness expert Don Saladino’s take; “Alcohol is alcohol no matter how you slice it, it’s a toxin. I am less concerned with one night of holiday drinking that might happen as opposed to the frequency that someone drinks, as that becomes more dangerous. It’s super important not to calorie restrict when you are planning on drinking. Proper nutrition will set you up for success. Remember, stay satiated and hydrated.” 

Eat: Your body loses nutrients when drinking, so foods that are high in fiber, potassium, protein, and healthy fats are best. Making sure you’ve got a full belly of nutritious food helps slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. But be careful– common bar foods that have high saturated fats and sodium (like french fries and pizza) will make you thirsty and cause you to want to drink more. Opt for guacamole, veggies and hummus, or a grilled chicken or salmon burger, to help satiate your hunger. 

Hydrate: It may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people let this slip. One glass of water is recommended for each alcoholic drink. For the next day, you can drink bone broths and coconut water to get your body back up to its proper hydration levels and sodium content. 

Supplements: As always, it’s important to be cautious when mixing alcohol and drugs. These two supplements are safe and can be taken before and after a big night.

    • NAC: Liver damage and other side effects of alcohol are caused by a carcinogen called acetaldehyde. Glutathione is necessary to break it down. NAC is an amino acid that helps ramp up the production of glutathione and will give you the antioxidants your body needs to prep your body beforehand.
    • B-12: Alcohol can deplete your body’s natural production of B-12. You can take this before having alcohol, but taking it after can replenish this essential nutrient, and help with symptoms like nausea and fatigue.

What To Watch Out For

Not all alcohol is created equal. And with what seems like endless options these days, choosing what’s best for you can be overwhelming. Here are some things to consider when deciding what to drink.

*Sugar and Processed Ingredients: Sodas, juices, and syrups are commonly found in mixed drinks. Dark liquor is also something that should be enjoyed in small amounts because it contains more sugar. Many spirits and sweeteners are loaded with artificial flavorings that should be avoided as well.

Alternatives: Make sure your cocktails and seltzers are made with real ingredients. Look for fresh juices and homemade syrups. Try to minimize your sugar intake, but if you’re going to enjoy it, cane sugar, agave, and honey are healthier options. Homemade soda water and bitters also limits additives commonly found in store-bought products.

* Soil Damage: Like farming, the overproduction of wine has caused soil damage to many commercial wineries. The same thing happens to the base of spirits, such as GMO corn used in bourbon, or sugar cane for rum.

Alternatives: Look for brands of wines and spirits that have a smaller production scale and are biodynamic. This will ensure the antioxidants are still in full effect, and that you aren’t being stripped of the good stuff that wine contains.

* Binge Drinking: More common among college students and people in their earlier years of drinking, but still worth noting. Binge drinking or excessive consumption of alcohol within a short time, not only can cause serious hangovers but is harmful to your health long term. Just because your friend is drinking quickly doesn’t mean you need to keep up.

Alternatives: Slow it down! Drinking is not a sprint to the finish line. Be sure to drink water to prevent dehydration. Slowly sipping will help manage your alcohol intake and gives you a chance to savor your drink so you can have a more enjoyable experience.

What Should You Drink?

Again, different types of alcohol affect each of us differently. However, there are general ways to make choices that are better for you. Here’s a list of the “healthiest” alcohol to drink.

Low-ABV Cocktails

ABV stands for alcohol by volume, which is the amount of pure alcohol in a standard drink. Low-ABV cocktails and beverages are becoming more popular and accessible, as cocktail culture expands. The amount of booze is lower than traditional drinks, which may relieve you of some of the consequences that standard cocktails, wine, and beer bring. Common bases for low-ABV drinks include fortified wines, sherries, aperitifs, vermouths, and more. Seltzers are another great option. 

Clear Spirits

“Clear spirits,” like gin and vodka, have not been aged, therefore are colorless. They generally are filtered out which removes impurities. The distillation process keeps it low-calorie and sugar-free, which minimizes your chance of a hangover. 

Hard Seltzers

The hard seltzer fad is upon us, and for good reason. Unlike beer, seltzer is lighter and easier on the stomach. Finding a hard seltzer with real fruit and real sugar used to be hard to come by. Now several organic brands make them without preservatives. Seltzer can be a great option when you want to have a drink with little regret. Our holiday favorite? PRESS Selzer’s Pomegranate Ginger is a festive guilt-free treat that pairs perfectly with holiday dishes.

Hard Kombucha

Another great low-calorie option. Kombucha on its own is made from fermented tea. Hard kombucha has a longer fermentation process, classifying it as an alcoholic beverage. “It is the better choice, calorie and sugar-wise, compared with a mixed drink, like a margarita,” says Alyssa Bixler, a registered dietitian at Ohio Health. It still has probiotics but not as much as traditional kombucha. Although it is better for you, it does not replace regular kombucha and should not be drunk solely for health benefits. 

Red Wine

Many of us know that red wine is better than most things when it comes to choosing from the menu. It has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Red wine contains a polyphenol called resveratrol, which, “is active in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases…”  But don’t go crazy! Red wine has a 13%-14% alcohol content so enjoy it in moderation.

Give Something to Yourself!

The last stretch of the year can feel tough on your body between all the eating, late night socializing, and drinking. Enjoying yourself is what we want you to do! Slipping up here and there is totally normal. The good news is, finding better options is easier when companies are becoming more health conscious.

Balancing healthy habits takes just a tiny bit of mindfulness. Celebrating the holidays with friends and family over a drink brings some of the most memorable moments in life. Consuming alcohol in moderation and paying attention to your body, can help having a healthy relationship with is possible.

*OPTIONAL* This article does not constitute any medical advice, and should not be taken as such. Consult your doctor when dealing with questions or issues surrounding alcohol. ALWAYS have a designated driver if you plan to drink.

Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN

Tricia Williams

Tricia Williams is a talented Chef recognized as a leader in the fields of Nutrition and Holistic Health. Some years ago, Tricia founded Food Matters, a boutique, nutritionally-sound meal delivery service. Closely collaborating with her clients’ coaches, integrative physicians, and nutritionists, Tricia was able to successfully tailor meal plans that met both their taste preferences and their health goals.