“How about a drink after work?”
“Let’s hit the bars this Friday!”
“Should I bring wine or beer to the party?”
“It’s happy hour, want to go?”
We’ve either heard or asked these questions more times than we can likely recall, and that’s because alcohol consumption is a common form of socialization in the world. In America alone, 86.4% of adults 18 years and older stated they’ve drank at some point in their lives, 70.1% drank in the last year, and 56% drank in the last month, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. So it’s no wonder that after a while, drinking can get out of hand.
While everything is moderation is good advice, when it comes to alcohol it’s important to know what moderation actually means, how to stay within those bounds, and what you can do to keep your intake in check.
The seven tips below can help you not only maintain healthier habits, but can also help you make choices that will reduce caloric intake and the risk of developing serious illnesses down the road.
Keep it Neat
While straight liquor may not be everyone’s go-to, ordering vodka, gin, whiskey, or scotch neat (or on the rocks with ice) is one way to keep calories down and prevent consuming alcohol too quickly. Drinks served in this fashion are meant to be sipped slowly, not chugged. Drinking your favorite spirit in this manner can keep you from consuming too much, too fast—and, without the sugary, high-carb mixers, you’re cutting empty calories.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Alcohol causes dehydration, which contributes to hangovers, which absolutely no one wants. To avoid feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus the morning after a night out, drink water— lots. It’s suggested to drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage you consume to help counteract the dehydrating effect booze can have. Plus, when you’re drinking water, you’re not drinking alcohol, which is a healthy way to monitor your intake and create more balance within your body.
Get the Good Stuff
All alcohol contains congeners, which are the byproducts of the fermentation process. Studies have shown that alcohols with higher levels of congeners are worse for hangovers. While many believe that darker drinks, like bourbon and red wine, have higher levels of congeners, it’s also thought that cheaper brands of alcohol also contain more as well. To be safe, it’s best to buy top-shelf, clear liquor to avoid consuming more of these impurities. Buying more expensive alcohol is also a good way to deter yourself from drinking too much. After all, no one likes to get a triple digit booze bill.
Don’t Forget to Eat
Eating before drinking is like looking both ways before you cross the street—you just do it. When food is in the stomach, alcohol is absorbed much slower. If you’re drinking on an empty stomach, alcohol quickly passes through the stomach and into the small intestine, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream, causing intoxicative effects. Additionally, drinking on an empty stomach can cause alcohol poisoning, which includes symptoms of confusion, hypothermia, abnormal breathing, or unconsciousness, and often requires hospitalization.
Make a Plan and Stick to It
If you know you’re going out for the night but don’t want to feel horrible the next day, set a limit for yourself before you head out—and don’t break it. If you’re not sure what your limit should be, it’s recommended that men should stop at four drinks in one night and women at three. Once you’ve reached your limit, switch to water or grab a snack instead. You’ll thank yourself the next day.
Don’t Mix It Up
Mixed drinks are deliciously sweet, and while their taste makes them desirable, their sugar levels make them some of the most unhealthy boozy beverages you can consume. According to Livestrong, a margarita contains 400 calories, a long island, 425, a white Russian, 500, a piña colada is a whopping 600 calories. You can easily clock in a couple days’ worth of calories in one night when ordering these high-calorie, high-sugar concoctions. Instead, go neat or mix with water, soda water, or opt for a glass of wine.
Take a Break
Sometimes, abstaining from one of the world’s most common pastimes is the best way to go. Refraining from alcohol can help you reset mentally, reduce your caloric intake, improve your sleep patterns, and make you feel all around better. Instead of a vodka soda, order a soda water with a splash of lime. And if and when you do decide to have a drink, DO NOT get behind the wheel. Ever.