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  • Jenny

Alternatives to Alcohol - Nutrition Series


I know, I know, now I’m telling you not to drink alcohol?! What a kill joy! To be honest, I’m not telling you that. While alcohol is by no means healthy, it’s really up to you whether you drink it or not. I’m personally cutting right back on alcohol and, at the moment, am not drinking at all. I’m not sure whether or not I will start drinking again, but I’ll tell you some of the alternatives I’ve been drinking since giving up alcohol to maybe give you a bit of inspiration.


1. Tea


How unimaginative, right?! I know this won’t be a good alternative for every situation – not many people will be up for having tea with dinner. However, for those evenings when you want to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, tea is actually a really good alternative. There are SO many different types of teas that you will definitely come up with one you like. My current favourite is peppermint and liquorice. I also like berry teas, ginger teas and fresh mint teas. They are delicious and really good for you – a great alternative to alcohol (barely any calories – and some tea’s, like hibiscus, can help your blood pressure fall)!


2. Fresh, 100% fruit juices


To be honest, I wouldn’t really recommend this in any other context other than as a replacement for alcohol. Fruit juice isn’t really all that healthy as it is high in calories and low in fibre – very easy to overdo it! As long as there is no added sugar though, it is definitely healthier than alcohol! So, if that is your choice, I’d recommend opting for the juice! There are loads of different flavours, so have play about and see what you like. My favourite is mango juice! At least you get a good vitamin boost with the calories!


3. Water


Booooring, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Drinking plain old water is still the best way to hydrate your body and, with a little help, can still taste nice! I personally like plain water, I think it is really refreshing, but many people don’t. If you’re one of those people, why not try adding some chopped fruit to your water? You can get reusable bottles that have filters at the top so you can put fruit in and it will stay in the bottle (otherwise it can be tricky trying not to accidentally swallow the fruit). To be honest, even if you do like plain water, this can be a nice way to give it a little bit of a nutrient boost. If you don’t want to add fruit, why not try some chopped cucumber, or some fresh ginger or mint? Just have a play about with flavours to find out what you like!


4. Spiced drinks


Ok, I’m cheating a bit here as this kind of uses drinks from other sections above, but with it being winter here in the UK I think spiced drinks deserve a mention! I know my big test for my current no-drinking plan will be mulled wine over Christmas! I love mulled wine, it’s warming and delicious and tastes like Christmas in a glass. It is, however, alcoholic, so I’m going to try to avoid it. Luckily, there’re alternatives that are still delicious, but much healthier than alcohol! Why not try a turmeric and cinnamon spiced latte (recipe here), or a chai tea? You could even try mixing up your infused water with some orange slices and cinnamon sticks. There are many ways of getting in your spiced drinks for winter that don’t involve alcohol!


Ok, enough with the alternatives – I know many of you are probably wondering what to do if you want to reduce your alcohol intake but don’t want to stop completely – the next bit is for you! If you’re going to drink alcohol, why not try these tips for reducing the amount you drink and mitigating some of the harmful effects on your body:


1. Drink water first


Start you evening/social event off with a glass of water. That way, you have provided some hydration to your body, and over time it might help break the habit of immediately ordering an alcoholic drink. Shifting your mindset can really help when you are trying to reduce your alcohol intake.


2. Always have a glass of water/non-alcoholic drink on hand


It might seem odd to have 2 drinks on the go at one time, but this can again mean that you drink less alcohol in one sitting. If you alternate sips between your alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks you will savour your drink for longer, which will mean you end up drinking less overall.


3. Don’t let anyone top up your drink until it is empty


Well-meaning wait staff and/or friends will often try to top off your drink while you still have some in there, but this makes it very difficult to keep track of your alcohol intake. Keeping track of your alcohol intake is essential if you are trying to cut down, so instead just thank them but say you don’t need a top up at the moment.


4. Remember, just because someone buys you a drink doesn’t mean you have to drink it


It’s quite common, especially at the end of the night, for people to buy rounds of drinks (particularly shots) for everyone. It’s easy to feel guilted into drinking a drink if someone has already bought it for you, but you really don’t have to! You could gently explain that while you appreciate the gesture, you’ve had enough already and ask if someone else might like the drink (if you really don’t feel comfortable, you could always sneakily pour the drink away when no one is looking – I know it’s a waste but so is drinking something you don’t want just for the sake of it).


Info about government guidelines


I don’t want to harp on about the dangers of alcohol, but I think it’s important to mention the UK government guidelines, as I think there’s a bit of misinformation out there. Many of you will know that the recommended maximum amount of alcohol per week is 14 units (roughly 6 pints of beer, or 7 glasses of wine – this will obviously depend on alcohol content and the size of the glass of wine, but this is the rough estimate) but did you know that there is no safe amount to drink? In other words, even staying within the government guidelines is not a safe or healthy way to drink alcohol. Drinking in moderation is obviously better than binge drinking, but maybe try cutting out/down alcohol for a while and see how you feel!