Niki Bezzant outlines the many reasons you should look at lowering your alcohol intake.
With summer comes, for some of us, a feeling of wanting to be more active, to eat a little bit more lightly and perhaps also a desire to drink a little less alcohol. I've been feeling this way myself; I'm not a big drinker anytime really, but lately I've been enjoying the feeling of not drinking at all and getting outside to move my body a bit more.
If drinking less is something you're aiming to do this year or even just this month, good for you. There's much to recommend being a non- or moderate drinker. It will lower your risk of many diseases, including at least six types of cancer. It'll likely improve your sleep. And it could very well see you lose a little weight as well.
Like any habit, changing the habit of drinking takes a little time. There are, however, some ways to make it a bit easier. A big one is changing your environment. Like any habitual behaviour, the less convenient something is, the less likely we are to do it. We're less likely to snack on chocolate biscuits if there are none in the cupboard. We won't automatically open the fridge and reach for the wine bottle after work if there's no wine in there. Ditto the beers. I've got into the habit of only chilling a bottle of wine if I know I have people coming over; this has completely trained me out of drinking casually at home. You might also find it useful to make a rule for yourself of only drinking when you go out; this assumes you're not out four or five times a week, of course.
Once you're in the habit of drinking less, the question then becomes: what can I drink instead?
The old options are sugary soft drinks and juice. I don't know about you, but to me neither of these is very food-friendly, and neither is going to do much for your health. It seems counter-productive — at least on the sugar front — to replace wine with a juice when the latter probably has a lot more sugar and energy. It always makes my heart sink a little bit when I go to a function and juice is the only non-alcoholic drink on offer. I'd rather have a wine, frankly, than something super-sweet.
Luckily though, there are lots of good options now that are far less sugary and much more grown-up.
Kombucha is having a huge moment and there are lots of good versions available, even on tap in some places, that are low in sugar and don't taste super-sweet. If you're buying it for home, it's worth comparing the labels. The sugar content can really vary, from hardly anything to several teaspoons per bottle.
On the no-sugar, no-calorie side of things, I am a big fan of homemade iced tea. I loved being in Japan recently where I could buy plain, unsweetened, chilled green and oolong tea everywhere. I love these teas hot and I find them super-refreshing cold, as well. And you can easily make this type of iced tea at home; I find it goes really nicely with food. It's a bit of an acquired taste though, so if that's not for you, try some of the other interesting flavoured teas that can be brewed hot or cold. You can always add fresh fruit or a dash of fruit juice to pep them up and add a bit of sweetness.
We're now seeing the emergence of alcohol-free versions of beer, wine and spirits, which are really worth exploring. The alcohol-free beer I have tried has been pretty good, refreshing and quite beer-like in flavour. Wines are a different story. It's pretty difficult to make wine taste like wine without the alcohol, which means alcohol-free wine can be disappointing.
Top five columns of 2019: Niki Bezzant
Feel free to lick your screen: 2019's best Auckland restaurants revealed
On the other hand, there are some very good lower-alcohol wines. New Zealand is leading the way in this area. We can expect to see more and better versions of these on the market. If you can manage to drink less than you normally would, these are a good way to cut down on your booze intake without giving up completely.The alcohol-free spirit is a new-ish development and a really interesting one. It started with Seedlip, the English distilled spirit with delicious botanical flavours that's perfect used as you'd mix a gin or vodka. I see more like this starting to appear. They're definitely worth experimenting with.
And don't forget good old water is a refreshing, super-healthy drink; the one the health experts say should be the first choice in every household. Fancy it up with bubbles, fruit, lemon, cucumber, herbs or flowers and enjoy saving your health, the planet and some cash.