Healthy Holiday Habits

Manage Holiday Cheer One Drink at a Time

One ingredient at a time: How to lighten up your holiday recipes

At many holiday parties this time of year, a festive greeting is often followed by the question, "What would you like to drink?"

There are a lot of options for alcohol during the holidays—such as cocktails, wine or champagne.

Canadian guidelines for alcohol recommend no more than 2 drinks a day for women and no more than 3 drinks per day for men.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse describes 1 drink as:

  • 341 ml (12 oz.) bottle of 5% alcohol content (beer, cider or cooler)
  • 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of wine with 12% alcohol content
  • 43 ml (1.5 oz.) serving of 40% distilled alcohol content (spirits such as rye, gin and rum)

Alcohol adds another dimension to the endless list of foods and beverages during the holiday season. Drinking alcohol even within the guidelines can add at least 200 calories per day—about the same as a small meal or snack.

Holiday drinks, both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions also have a lot of extra sugar and salt. While these drinks may be tasty, they add extra calories and few nutrients. This is something to consider when faced with all of the tempting seasonal food and drinks.

The bottom line: like other food and beverage decisions you make over the holidays, moderation is key to enjoy holiday spirits. Consider these questions when making your holiday drink choices.

1. What are my options?

Some holiday drinks come with a particularly potent punch. Blended drinks like Bellini's, daiquiris and margaritas have a lot of added sugar. Caesars, margaritas, and other cocktails can have lots of salt. If you enjoy these drinks, try to limit the number you have. Or, switch to a beverage with less sugar or salt like light beer, or a cocktail made with soda water or sparkling water, or to one without alcohol.

2. What's in this drink?

Alcohol drinks are often mixed with sweet and possibly creamy choices. Consider these substitutions:

Instead of this.... Try this....
Regular pop or tonic in highballs Diet pop or soda water
Cream-based eggnog or other creamy drinks (such as white Russians and paralyzers) 1% or skim milk
Coolers or punch Spirit mixed with soda and berries or oranges, or a little 100% fruit juice
Regular beer Light beer with a wedge of lime or orange
Wine or champagne Wine spritzer—mix wine with soda

Small substitutions can easily create healthier beverage recipes. For tips on healthier holiday beverages, visit the Healthy Families BC blog on Holiday glitz and glam by the glass.

3. What's to eat?

Drinking on an empty stomach makes alcohol take effect quickly. Alcohol also stimulates the appetite, so drinking without eating can make you even hungrier.

Eat something before you have a drink to slow alcohol's effects. Choose something with whole grains and protein, like crackers and cheese or a tuna salad pita. If your body is digesting food alongside the alcohol, the alcohol will enter the bloodstream more slowly.

You may however, want to stay away from salty snacks while drinking. Salted nuts, pretzels, chips and other savories can make you feel more thirsty, and make you want to drink more. If you are enjoying savory foods with your beverage, drink water or sparkling water to stay hydrated. Add a lemon or lime wedge for an extra thirst quench.

4. How many have I had?

You can curb alcohol's impact by having a soda water or regular water after a drink. You could also alternate with a non-alcohol option of the same drink, or opt entirely for drinks without alcohol.

Stay healthy and safe this holiday season! Visit the Healthy Families BC blog for tips on Having a Low-Risk or No-Risk Holiday Season and the Risks and Health Effects of Drinking Alcohol.

For more information on healthy eating during the holidays call 8-1-1 to speak to a registered dietitian, Monday to Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or you can Email a HealthLinkBC Dietitian.

Happy Holidays!

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If you have any questions about healthy eating, food, or nutrition, call 8-1-1 toll-free in B.C. You can speak to a health service representative who can connect you with one of our registered dietitians, who are available:

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