Food

How to cut down on alcohol (without feeling deprived!)

Enjoy a drink the healthy way and avoid overindulging while still having fun

When you fancy a drink, sometimes it can be hard to stop at just the one. And with larger alcohol measures and lower prices, many of us are in danger of drinking more than is healthy – or good for our waistlines.

The government's unit guidelines state that there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption and the latest advice is that both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week.

Alcohol delivers a double whammy on the weight front too. It’s loaded with calories, so it can contribute to putting on weight (drinking a 175ml glass of white wine is like eating a packet of crisps). Drinking also relaxes your inhibitions, making it easy to blow your good intentions about sticking to your healthy eating plan.

It’s easy to drink more than you should without meaning to. As with snacking, knowing what your triggers are could help you stay in control. So, what kind of drinker are you?

The weekend drinker
You pride yourself on not touching a drop all week, but on Friday night you like to unwind with a few glasses of wine or a gin and tonic.

Should you cut down? Even if you’re not exceeding the recommended weekly limit of 14 units, you could still be drinking more than the recommended limit of two to three units per day. Having six units – about two-thirds of a bottle of wine – is classified as binge drinking.

Try… Spreading your intake throughout the week, making sure you stay within both the weekly and daily limits, so you’re less tempted to overindulge when the weekend arrives. Buy some smaller wine glasses, try to drink only as part of a meal and drink plenty of water, too.

The ‘it helps me relax’ drinker
You’re stressed after work or a hard day with the kids and you feel you deserve a drink or two at night.

Should you cut down? If you’re doing this most nights you’re almost certainly drinking too much. Apart from the units you are consuming, experts recommend that we should all have a few alcohol-free nights every week.

Try… Finding other ways to unwind. Going to the gym or – if the weather’s onside – taking a pre-dinner stroll, will bring your stress levels right down. Or treat yourself to a scented bath.

The social drinker
You don’t drink much – if ever – at home, but you always drink when out with friends.

Should you cut down? It really depends on how often you go out and how much you drink when you do. Even if you’re only out two or three times a week, it’s easy to drink too much when wine is served in larger glasses and shorts are often sold as doubles.

Try… Alternating alcoholic drinks with water, or go for lower alcohol options or sugar-free spritzers. Organise trips to the cinema or theatre rather than the pub, or try some social sports to catch up with friends instead.

The ‘it gives me more confidence’ drinker
You find it hard to talk to people in social situations and a glass or two helps you join in. But you don’t even enjoy it and always wind up with a horrible headache the next day.

Should you cut down? If small amounts of alcohol make you feel lousy, you may not need to worry about overdoing it on the health front. But it’s never a good idea to use alcohol as a social crutch, and it makes sense to cut down just to avoid the hangovers.

Try… Tackling your lack of confidence by talking it through with a friend, or try an assertiveness course. Taking up some new hobbies can help boost your confidence, too. At the bar, choose a non-alcoholic beer or a mocktail rather than your usual tipple.