Your Holiday Alcohol Survival Guide – The Lowdown on Sugary Drinks & Your Best Options

With the Holidays officially upon us, we’re bound to enjoy a few drinks, over eat at the dinner table (extra stuffing for me please!) and indulge in a few sweet goodies. 

The truth is, I’m not one to drink. And this comes from someone who used to bartend 4 nights a week during my University days!

As we near the end of 2016, I can count on one hand the amount of drinks I’ve had this entire year. It just doesn’t really appeal to me, but with that said, I know come Christmas that once the baileys and coffee gets whipped out or the frosty blended kailua drinks, I’ll be enjoying one… or two!

I often get asked about alcohol from my clients. Many of them are following low sugar plans and are curious as to where the alcohol fits in, or if it fits in at all?!

So whether or not you’re quitting sugar or just wanting to be more cautious of your alcohol intake, I’m breaking down the sugar content in alcohol for you so you can make healthier choices this holiday season. 

Let’s get to it…

WINE – of course it contains sugar, but how much? I don’t know an exact amount, but you’re typically looking at less than a teaspoon per litre of residual sugar in the case of dry reds. It’s the fructose in grapes that ferments to become alcohol, leaving most red wines fairly low in sugar. As for whites, they contain more residual sugar, so I would keep them to a minimum or avoid them altogether. I like making Kombucha Sangria. Its a great way to cut down on the sugar and tastes delicious! You can get my recipe here. 

SPARKLING WINE ie. CHAMPAGNE – if you’re looking to limit your sugar intake or avoid it altogether, then Champagne isn’t for you. The bubbles retain quite a lot of sugar, so I would keep to a mimimm or avoid altogether. 

ICE WINE – these dessert type wines are quite sugary. A lot of unfermented sugar remains in ice wine, so I would avoid this one altogether. 

SPIRITS – dry spirits such as Gin, Vodka & Whiskey contain little to no fructose. These are your best bet, however, if you’re mixing them with coke, sprite, or another type of sugary soft drink, then your sugar intake will go way up. I would avoid the soft drinks at ALL COSTS. There is no need to ever drink them. It’s just one whole can of inflammation causing, gut wrenching sugar. On the flip side, you can enjoy these spirits with soda water or own there own over ice. A gin martini, extra dirty with extra olives? Yes please! 

BEER – it doesn’t contain any fructose. The sugar you typically find in beer or stouts is maltose, which more often than not can metabolize well. What’s important to note though, is that many brands do contain gluten. If you happen to be gluten sensitive, beer may not be the best option for you. You can find gluten free beers, so keep your eyes peeled for those. 

Now before you run off and pour yourself a glass of wine, let’s take a really quick, not to overly-scientific look at what happens when we consume alcohol…

As the all-powerful Wikipedia tells us, “Alcohol is metabolized by a normal liver at the rate of about one ounce (one shot, a normal beer, a regular sized glass of wine) every 90 minutes.”  Many different factors affect this rate – like body fat percentage (lower the body fat, lower the blood alcohol level) and gender (women typically process alcohol slower than men).

Any amount consumed over that doesn’t get processed immediately, and instead saturates your blood until your liver can process the excess alcohol. 

Low sugar or not, too much alcohol can have a negative effect on your health, not to mention it’s completely void of any nutrients.  

But what about all the resveratrol and antioxidants you can get from wine? Ya, I get it, there is some, but you’re better off eating grapes, blueberries, cranberries, cacao or dark chocolate. 

Here’s some really important things to know when getting down and dirty with alcohol:

  • It has an estrogenic effect – meaning it raises bad estrogen leading to a host of hormonal imbalances.
  • Women who drink more than 2 glasses a wine a night can increase their breast cancer risk by 250%!!!
  • Alcohol stimulates insulin production when consumed.  Just like with grains, processed foods and other sugars, this can lead to increased fat storage and hormonal imbalances.
  • It’s dehydrating, causing you to pee out more fluid than you’re actually taking in.
  • It wreaks havoc on your sleep patterns by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 
  • It slows down liver detoxification.

Bottom line… just don’t overdo it!

Be cautious about how much you drink and how often and choose to consume low-sugar alcoholic drinks.


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