Thanks to motivational workout posts on Instagram and celebrity-endorsed detox teas, dieting has become more mainstream—and dare we say, bearable?—than ever. Today, the popularity of healthy, natural eating, and strong, real women’s bodies, has given way to a number of innovative, tasty and hassle-free meal prep methods.
While making the switch from white bread to sweet potato or cheeseburgers to tilapia might not seem so painful, there tends to be one part of a meal plan that doesn’t go down as easily as the rest: booze, or a lack thereof.
At the outset, drinking the hoppy or hard stuff doesn’t seem all that bad: 153 calories in a beer, 125 in a glass of wine, 124 calories in a martini. However, while alcohol on its own is less fattening than many other foods and beverages, you’re not just guzzling one 150-calorie beer. More often than not, you’re having several. And calories aside, booze is one of our favorite ways to indulge and socialize with others, a liquid facilitator of get-togethers, awkward work happy hours and fun nights out.
Alcohol has cemented itself into American culture, so it should come as no surprise that ditching drinking entirely can be especially difficult. But as the nutritionists we interviewed for this piece all agreed, slashing copious beer, wine and spirits is critical if you want to be healthier overall.
Lucky for us, those same nutritionists also admitted that boozing isn’t all bad. You just have to consume it the right way. Here are six key tips for watching your alcohol intake while still having fun.
Drink alcohol you hate
Cupcake-brand pinot grigio or Stella beer your go-to drink? According to Bianca Osbourne, a professional chef, nutritionist and wellness business coach, replacing a beloved beverage with one that makes you cringe may help you consume less booze overall.
“Drink alcohol that you aren’t a huge fan of,” she advises. “For instance, if wine goes down to smooth and fast, have an old fashioned that forces you to sip slowly.”
Muster up the courage for a manlier drink
With mixed drinks like vodka Sprites, whiskey and Cokes, and gin and tonics, you’re typically choosing a sweet mixer to mask the wince-inducing taste of the booze itself. But when you’re trying to drink less, eliminating those mix-ins might be your best bet.
“My go-to drink for a night out is scotch on the rocks,” says Rebecca Lewis, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh. “I avoid sugary mixers like juice, and since scotch is stronger, you can sip it slower, and one glass can last you the whole evening.”
Have secret pow-wows with the wait staff or bartender
While ordering sparkling water with lime is a go-to tactic for faux drinkers, the jig is up instantly when forced to order in front of a big group of people.
But, according to Lewis, this might be time to perfect your acting skills. “Approach the waitress or bartender on the sly and let them know you’re ordering seltzer with lime,” she advises. That way, when you’re asked for your order in front of a group getting rounds of vodka sodas, you can put in your order confidently.
Pick a late-night class
We’ve all been there—a short, last-minute happy hour with coworkers turns into an all-night rager and an excruciating next-morning headache. So how do you keep 5 o’clock drinks from going too far and impeding your productivity for the rest of the night and the following day?
One surefire solution: Book a class after happy hour. You’ll be more inclined to only take a few sips of wine (or skip booze all together) when you’ve got burpees and pushups on the brain.
Rely on science for a bigger buzz
According to Dr. Gabrielle Francis, naturopathic doctor in New York City, certain mixers might actually boost alcohol’s potency, resulting in a bigger buzz and, subsequently, the need to consume less for the same effect.
“While it’s known that alcohol can be rough on the liver, what’s less known is that certain substances impact how the organ metabolizes it,” she explains. “For example, grapefruit contains naringenin, which slows the detox of alcohol from the liver. Therefore, the alcohol stays in your blood longer, making the formula simple: grapefruit + spirits = bigger buzz. You only need to drink half as much to get the same effect.”
Make your own ‘mocktail’
Instead of gulping down actual cocktails or wine, Adler suggests making homemade “mocktails,” or alcohol-free (but equally as fun and refreshing) beverages.
“Club soda and any citrus is divine and refreshing,” she says. “Or for a twist, try adding coconut water and lime. Mint and cucumber in coconut water is also a great option. The possibilities are endless.”