It’s party season and the drinks are flowing – but it’s easy to overdo it. Here’s a guide to sensible tippling
It’s New Year’s Eve and you have a problem: you’re trying to squeeze into your favourite skinny jeans and discover you can’t do up the zip.
You hold your breath and tug but it just won’t budge. Oh no! Was it the mince pies? Or the delicious roast potatoes you tucked into with your Christmas lunch? Or was it the two helpings of trifle you allowed yourself? All these things may have played their part – but it’s more likely the drinks you washed them down with that really sank you.
Most of us wouldn’t dream of eating 13 slices of white bread in one sitting – yet we sometimes easily consume the equivalent of this when we’re with friends and the booze starts flowing.
This is because alcohol is loaded with carbs and sugar and the tonic water, orange juice or cola we sometimes add to make our favourite drink turns it into even more of a kilojoule bomb.
But that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. Consumed in moderation alcohol isn’t bad – in fact it even has some health benefits.
It’s all down to how you drink it and what you combine it with. Vodka, tequila and whisky are far less fattening choices than cocktails, beer and wine, health blogger and nutrition coach Cara-Lisa Sham says.
Instead of buying sugary mixers to add to your alcoholic drinks, rather make your own, using fruit-infused water or soda water, she suggests. “You can even use homemade iced herbal tea as a mixer.”
From spirits to bubbly and beer, here’s everything you need to know about your favourite tipple – and how you can drink it cleverly so you can still fit into your jeans in January.
Whisky: 25 ml: 250 kJ
It’s known to slow down the onset of dementia and increase heart health, help manage diabetes, boost good cholesterol, fight cancer, eliminate blood clots and strengthen the immune system. As it can be consumed neat or with water or soda water, it’s a good option for those who are watching their weight.
Take it easy because regular consumption can lead to a higher alcohol tolerance which could cause you to drink more than is good for you.
Brandy: 25 ml: 235 kJ, 200 ml cola: 335 kJ
Brandy is created by distilling wine and as a result holds many of its health benefits, including promoting heart health and fighting cancer cells. It also boosts your immune system and vitamin C levels and helps to relieve pain.
Take it easy because in terms of alcohol content, brandy really packs a punch so it’s easy to overindulge.
TIP: You can cut the kilojoules by mixing it with soda water or low-calorie cola instead of ordinary cola.
Beer: 340 ml regular beer: 570 kJ
Beer contains vitamins and minerals needed to protect the heart and bones, and is high in fibre. It’s thought to also reduce the risk of kidney stones by up to 40 percent because of its low calcium and high magnesium content which are key factors in avoiding stone formation. It also cuts the risk of heart disease and strokes thanks to its antioxidants.
Take it easy because if you drink too much you’ll end up with a beer boep. Beer drinkers are also prone to heartburn caused by the gastric stimulants found in the beverage.
TIP Opt for lite beer – it has 130 kJ less per bottle.
Vodka: 25 ml tot: 260 kJ
200 ml vodka and fresh orange juice: 610 kJ
This spirit consists largely of ethanol and water which gives it its antiseptic and anti- bacterial qualities. This is why vodka can be used as a disinfectant. Vodka can also aid in cardiovascular health and stress relief, fight bad breath and promote healthy skin and hair.
Take it easy because too much can affect your immune system and push up your blood pressure.
TIP: The orange juice packs on the kilojoules. Lessen the damage by adding only 100 ml orange juice and topping up with water or soda water.
Gin: 25 ml: 260 kJ or 200 ml gin and tonic: 520 kJ or 200 ml gin and diet tonic: 260 kJ
Gin is flavoured with juniper, a berry known for its diuretic properties and used in herbal medicine to treat kidney and bladder stones and bloating. Juniper also has anti-inflammatory properties that help to relieve the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism and gout.
Take it easy because it’s known for causing heavy hangovers as it’s a redistilled form of pure alcohol.
TIP: If you’re not keen on diet tonic, use ordinary tonic but fill the glass to just more than half then top up with soda water.
Wine: 125 ml dry white or red: 355-505 kJ 125 ml semisweet: 780 kJ
Red wine raises good cholesterol, boosts brain power, helps against insomnia and protects against tooth decay. It’s also rich in antioxidants which help to lower the risk of heart disease or stroke as well as the chances of contracting certain types of cancer. White wine also contains antioxidants – although not as much as red – and research has shown it helps to keep the tissues of the lungs healthy.
Take it easy because it can affect your sleep patterns, causing you to feel tired. It can also result in weight gain over time – just a few extra glasses a week means you’ll consuming an extra 8 200 kJ a month and over time this will come back to haunt you. White wine is more acidic than red and therefore not great for your teeth.
TIP: When drinking white wine, fill your glass only halfway then top up with soda water to make a spritzer.
Sparkling wine: 125 ml glass: 745 kJ
Research shows the pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes used in some sparkling wine can improve memory and spatial awareness and even help to slow the onset of degenerative brain disorders such as dementia. Like wine, the red grapes used in pink bubbly are good for the heart, lowering blood pressure and the chance of heart disease. It’s also a great detoxifier for the skin and has antibacterial properties, making it less likely you’ll suffer breakouts.
Take it easy because if you overdo it you’ll be left with the mother of all hangovers. Because of its high sugar content it tends to dehydrate the body rapidly and may cause headaches or migraines. So when drinking it, have a glass of water before allowing yourself a top-up.
If you wake up with a hangover you’ll be more likely to crave a greasy breakfast because you’ll be dehydrated and your body will want to counteract the effects of your alcohol consumption, explains Jason Burke, an American doctor who’s made a study of hangovers. He suggests that you drink plenty of water before you go to sleep and have a snack that’s high in fibre and protein – such as a high-fibre cereal with yoghurt.
This will help your body to do its job of breaking down the alcohol and make you less prone to hunger when you wake up.
Avoid cocktails and sugary mixers because they cause radical spikes in blood sugar, meaning you’ll become ravenous and be more likely to indulge in unhealthy snacks.
Before you start drinking, have a healthy meal that’s rich in protein, fibre and healthy fat, says Karlene Karst, author of The Full- Fat Solution. “This will stabilise your blood sugar levels without slowing down your metabolism.”