Healthy Holiday Question of the Week: Which Alcoholic Beverages Are the Best Choices?

Care for a hot, steaming mug of eggnog? How about a cranberry cosmopolitan?

While I’ve been covering various eating during the holiday scenarios this week, the topic of what to sip on, if you’re someone who likes to have a drink has yet to be addressed.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you skip all the drinking completely and make do with a cup of tap water.

But can alcohol fit at all into a balanced eating regime?

In my opinion, yes.

While wine, rum or vodka aren’t exactly on the list of things you should put on your must-drink list on a regular basis (like water) but given that one of the key principles of implementing any healthy eating regime is that is must be balanced and sustainable for the long term, we’ve got to be practical here.

In particular, during the holidays when far too many adopt the attitude that eating and drinking anything, and lots of it, is fair game and that it will be dealt with in the New Year, its even more important to develop strategies to create the best situation possible.

And this includes drinking, so long as you’re in good health and not addressing autoimmune conditions or other concerns in which drinking any alcohol would be prohibitive.

The key is to choose the best options, with the least negative consequences as well as to balance the overall macronutrient ratios of the day in order to affect blood sugar stability and fat utilization as fuel as little as possible.

So what are the best drinks to choose?

• Wine. Dr. Cordain shares in a post on his website , “Wine is a delicious compliment for special meals – if you would like to treat yourself to this non-Paleo item, checkout the sulfite free wines which are available at your local dealers, and see if these wines make a difference for you.” However, if you’re dealing with candida overgrowth or have a sensitivity to yeast, you’re better off going with another option.

• Neat, non-grain based spirits. Do your due diligence and research what different types of vodka, gin or tequila, for example will be offered at the bar or restaurant where the event you’re attending will be held. Not all gin is made from juniper berries, nor are all vodkas made from potatoes or tequila from agave. Good options in the latter category include Chopin, Karlssen’s and, my favorite, Ciroq.   Also worth considering is that the gluten content for some wheat-based vodka’s, such as Absolut Elyx, is said to be so minimal that those who do not suffer from Celiac can likely consume without consequence. The viscosity simply lends itself to an incredibly smooth mouth feel. The key is to keep it neat. With the exception of a tiny splash of no-sugar added cranberry, for example, avoid mixers, sugar-laden juices or tonic water.

• Festive, alcohol-free drinks. How about if you are eating your way to health while addressing MS or RA? Or if you’re pregnant? No one ever said it’s got to be an ‘adult’ drink or nothing. You can easily order creative, festive cocktails that have neither booze nor corn syrup in them. A soda water with a tiny splash of natural, unsweetened cranberry juice and a twist of lime, or a few pomegranate seeds thrown in for color served in a martini glass makes for a festive looking alcohol-free cocktail while providing just a hint of flavor at no cost. Even if you are partaking of one of the drink categories above, it’s still in your best interest to include some of this type as well to keep from overdoing it.

As for balancing out your macros, it’s simple:

• Don’t have other sugar sources that day. If you’re going to have two glasses of wine at dinner, you’ll get plenty there, so skip the banana with breakfast, the baked sweet potato at lunch and the trail mix with raisins you always find yourself munching on at the office.

• Keep on top of eating ample fat, protein and veggies at breakfast as well as lunch; for those who utilize intermittent fasting, do so at the first meal of your day and time the second to occur around the time you’re planning to imbibe.

• Just like your mom told you, have the drink with your food and space it out with water, timing the last one to occur at least a couple of hours before bed. Don’t forget, passing out from too much alcohol is not the same as falling asleep into a restful evening.

• Last but not least, don’t go nuts with all the hype about hangover cures, thinking you can drink to your heart’s content when you’re in the moment. For example, the myth that eating asparagus can cure a case of the morning after blues doesn’t hold water. While scientists from the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago say amino acids and minerals in the green vegetable spears can relieve the toxic effect that excess alcohol has on the liver…but these helpful compounds, however, are much more prevalent in the asparagus plant’s leaves which nobody eats.

By setting just a little time aside to prepare, plan, you can enjoy that cocktail party and wake up fresh the next morning, ready for another day of Christmas festivities without that awful headache and desire to head straight back to bed.