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How to drink less but still have fun this party season

This post is written by Catherine Saxelby, an accredited dietitian and nutritionist who is a member of the Lion Beer Advisory Panel and has overseen the introduction of nutrition information panels onto Lion’s entire range of beers.

If we could just contain things to a one-off Christmas Day blow-out, our bodies could cope. But it’s those indulgent gatherings in the long lead-up such as end-of-year farewells, speech nights, office parties and family picnics that can wreak havoc with our best intentions. Then it spills over into New Year with fatty finger food and salty chips.
 
The silly season is also the peak time for drinking, from a glass of bubbly on arrival to a cold beer at a barbecue, but it can undo your hard efforts at the gym if you go overboard. Small wonder this over-indulgence is linked to holiday weight gain.

The problems with alcohol.

  • Alcohol can be a contributor to overweight. Pure alcohol is concentrated in kilojoules (Calories), having almost twice that of carbohydrate or protein, gram for gram. 
  • Alcohol seems to encourage fat storage rather than fat burning. And it reduces your resolve so you eat things you’d never normally consume. How good that pie and hot chips look on the way back from the pub...
  • Here’s how to help your clients enjoy themselves in moderation. No-one wants to lose weight, then regain it all over Christmas. 
Catherine’s 12 best Christmas tips for drinking less
If you’re trying to stick to a weight loss program, here’s how to survive without becoming a total social pariah. Good news is there are lots of lower kilojoule and lower alcohol drink options right now:
 
1. Quench your thirst with a large mineral water as soon as you arrive.
 
2. Spritz your wine with mineral water or add ice to make itgo further.

3. Order a light or mid-strength beer. You save on alcohol AND kilojoules.

4. Stick with white spirits (like vodka) with lots of ice and sugar-free mixers. 
 

5. Intersperse sparkling mineral water with your alcoholic drinks. It helps keep you hydrated and avoid a hangover. Drinking a large glass of water before bed also helps.

6. Have something to eat before you drink to slow the absorption of alcohol. 
 
7. Buy lower-alcohol wines.
 
8. Watch those portions. Remember a standard glass of wine measures only 100mL, not 170mL like those bars give you. A standard beer is one middie 285mL (full-strength) or two middies 570mL (light beer).

9. Don't forget these non-alcoholic options:
 
▪ mocktails (as long as they’re not made with cream or heaps of juice)
▪ tomato juice (refreshing in hot weather)
▪ lime, soda and bitters
▪ grapefruit or cranberry juice with mineral water
▪ ginger beer
▪ iced teas
▪ fruit punch (serve in a champagne glass).
 
10. Offer to be the designated driver so you have the perfect excuse for not drinking. Even driving to the event makes you extra cautious about drinking.
 
11. Set yourself a limit before you go out and stick to it. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than four drinks in a 24-hour period.
 
12. Steer clear of salty snacks such as chips or peanuts (or ones with chilli too), which only make you thirsty and encourage you to you drink more.

Don’t mentally write off the next month. Think in terms of trade-offs so a boozy dinner is balanced with some salads, seafood and fresh fruits, or a workout. Forget losing weight now. Aim to be the same weight in January as you were at the start of December – that’s 'success'.

Forget low-carb beer
Diet-conscious drinkers have flocked to low-carb beer, but consider reaching for a light or low-alcohol brew instead. Either mid-strength or low-strength is a winner.

First, beer is not actually high in carbohydrate to start with. Regular beer has less than 3 per cent carbs while soft drinks have 11 and bread, a high 40 per cent.
 
Second, most low-carb beers have the same alcohol content as full-strength regular beers which is 4 to 5 per cent. So you save on the carbs but make up for it with the alcohol – and the kilojoules end up around the same. 
 
Compare a low-carb to a low-alcohol beer in terms of kilojoules per 100mL or per serve. You’ll see both end up about the same. And your total kilojoule intake is ultimately what counts.

It's the party season and nobody wants to completely abstain from indulging, but by working some of these tips into your summer you can have fun without waving farewell to all your good work.
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