3 RD-Approved Ways To Drink Alcohol & Be Healthy
Here at mbg, we believe alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle, which is why I was excited to chat with Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, about the best ways to make the healthiest choices when it comes to holiday drinks.
"[Because I am] an R.D., people often assume I don't eat certain things. But life is way too short," she tells me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
While she discusses everything from the best bedtime snacks that foster tranquillity before we sleep (spoiler alert: The list includes purple potatoes) to what our cravings for ice cream are really trying to tell us, she also shares her expert advice on drinking alcohol. Cording believes there is a way to have a few beverages and still follow a nutritious, balanced diet—all it takes is identifying what makes you the most satisfied.
Here are Cording's three tips on how to drink responsibly for your health. You might be surprised to find that she actually wants you to explore different varieties to find your favorite liquor.
Of course, portion matters.
As with most aspects of our well-being, Cording says you never want to go past the point of excess.
"We need to be mindful of the portion of alcohol that we're having," she says. One portion size is around 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine, or about an ounce to an ounce and a half of distilled spirits—Cording recommends up to two portions per day for men and one per day for women.
There's previous research about the different polyphenols in red wine1, as well as some health benefits with tequila. Cording acknowledges this current research ('On some level, there are noted benefits to pretty much all types of ethanol," she notes), but she still encourages us to drink until we're satisfied rather than drunk. Again, aligned with most aspects of our health, it's all about balance.
Don't drink right before bed.
It might seem strange that Cording would tell us to refrain from falling asleep shortly after drinking. After all, don't a couple of drinks make you feel especially drowsy? There's a reason they call it a nightcap.
But, Cording says, alcohol causes you to skip ahead in your sleep cycle (which is why you may feel sleepy after a few drinks), and you end up skipping over some of the REM cycle. That's why at first alcohol can knock you out, then you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and can't seem to fall back asleep.
"I always joke that alcohol is a really selfish nutrient," Cording adds. "It jumps to the front of the pathway, and it's like, 'Metabolize me first!' So our body is working on that alcohol, and then you wake up in the middle of the night, wide-awake with a headache." We think Cording might have just cracked the code to hangovers.
Find the alcohol you love most, and stick to it.
It may seem obvious, but Cording says the healthiest alcohol for you is the one you love! If you enjoy what you're drinking, chances are you'll sip on it in a leisurely way rather than gulping it down for a buzz (which relates to the portion control issue in No. 1). Whether you're partial to bourbon, tequila, vodka, or gin, find what tastes enjoyable to you, and stick to it.
"When it comes to alcohol, you should really pick the thing you will be the most satisfied with, so you won't feel like you have to have more drinks to hit that sweet spot," Cording adds.
In terms of her personal, dietitian-approved drink of choice? "I'm a whiskey drinker. I love a good bourbon or rye," she notes.
So as New Year's Eve approaches and you have the opportunity to drink way more than a few fun beverages, keep these three tips in mind before making your way to the bar. With Cording's expert advice, you'll have a festive night and actually enjoy what you're drinking—and if you cut yourself off before crawling into bed, you might just wake up hangover-free.
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.