Sometimes we watch our food intake during the holidays, but beverages may sabotage our best healthy eating efforts without us realizing it.
The problem primarily rests in our consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, cocktails, sweetened teas, fruit-flavored juices, punches and sports drinks. Alcohol in moderation will not thwart health goals, but an overconsumption will most assuredly sabotage us.
Below is a great recipe for a nourishing cranberry spice tea you can keep on hand as a cold tea, or have simmering on the stove or microwave for a cozy cup of comfort. I also included an easy, healthier version of hot chocolate that won’t leave you sluggish and tired.
Here are some helpful drinking tips when dining out or in:
- If you are accustomed to drinking sweetened iced tea, try weaning yourself by asking for half sweetened and half unsweetened. I did that and now only take a “splash of sweet” on the top.
- “Diet” products with artificial sweeteners present their own set of problems, so they are not a healthy alternative to sweetened beverages.
- When dining out or at a party, have the server add a splash of cranberry or pineapple juice to sparkling or seltzer water. When at home, add a slash of pomegranate juice to sparkling water (like San Pellegrino water).
- When dining out or in, we may not be used to drinking water with our meal. This is a habit that can be cultivated. Water is always the superior choice. Need motivation? Think about the money you will save by not purchasing a drink with your meal. It adds up over time.
- There are new sweeteners on the market called sugar alcohols. The names include maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol, among others. They are not artificial, but are a carbohydrate that acts like sugar. Not as much is absorbed by the body so the blood sugar impact is less and they provide fewer calories per gram. If you are craving a sweet drink, one that contains a sugar alcohol might hit the spot.
Start slow in consuming them, though, because sugar alcohols can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea in some people who haven’t built up a tolerance. Brands like SoBe contain sugar alcohols. They can also be purchased in powder form under many different brand names and added to unsweetened beverages.
- Drink in moderation. It’s no surprise that life will be simpler. A good rule of thumb is to limit ourselves to zero drinks to one drink a day, and two drinks a day once a week (like at a holiday party).
I’ve seen wine glasses the size of a Henry the VIII goblet, so I better clarify. A one drink serving is considered: 12 ounces of a beer or wine cooler; 8 ounces of malt liquor; 5 ounces of table wine; or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits such as gin, vodka or whiskey. That’s it folks. Any more than this not only promotes weight gain, but increases the risk of liver damage and some types of cancer.
Here are some alcoholic drink substitutions that may help to keep the typical holiday pounds at bay. They come from Marissa Lippert, nutritionist and owner of Nourish Kitchen + Table in NYC.
Instead of a: Cosmopolitan
Try an: Aperol Spritz
(163 calories). Pour 3 ounces prosecco, 1 ounce Aperol, and a splash of club soda into a glass filled with ice and garnish with an orange slice.
Instead of a: Mai tai
Try a: Raspberry-Mint Mojito
(145 calories). In a cocktail shaker, muddle 2 teaspoons. extrafine sugar, 4 fresh mint sprigs, and 4 fresh raspberries. Add 1 1/2 ounces light rum and 1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice. Shake well. Top with a splash of club soda.
Instead of a: Frozen margarita
(250 to 500 calories)
Try a: Lite-But-Sweet Margarita
(184 calories). In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 1/2 ounces tequila (reposado or blanco, preferably), 1/2 ounce Cointreau or triple sec, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, and 1 teaspoon agave nectar. Shake, and strain into an ice-filled glass.
Want a brighter and merrier holiday AND New Year? Think about what you drink.
"Lindy helped me to break the hold that carbs and sugar held on my life. She performed a thorough evaluation of my situation and then customized a new lifestyle plan for me to follow. She was quick to respond to any questions or concerns I had, and her expertise and encouraging spirit were instrumental in my success! I am so very glad that our paths crossed." - Susan G., Age 45
Cranberry Spice Tea (Hot or Iced)
Chilly days call for holiday warmth, and this drink is a cup of coziness. Cranberries and lemons are simmered with cinnamon sticks, slices of fresh ginger and a sprinkling of goji berries. Warm or iced, this tea is great when I feel run down by holiday festivities or feel a tickle in my throat.
Break out your slow cooker if you want a warm cup close at hand. I sometimes pour the tea in a pitcher, allow it to come to room temperature and then refrigerate for a refreshing cold drink. The tea is also great on ice topped with sparkling water.
- Cranberries: High nutrient and antioxidant content, lowered risk of urinary tract infections, blood pressure lowering properties, increased immune function.
- Goji Berries: High nutrient and antioxidant content (500 times more vitamin C per weight than an orange; more beta carotene than carrots), increased immune function.
- Ginger: Anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties.
- Cinnamon: Blood sugar stabilizing properties.
- 4 cups/ 1 quart filtered water
- 3 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 large or two small lemons juiced or 3 Tbls frozen lemon juice (Minute Maid)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger peeled and grated
- 2 tablespoons dried goji berries (optional)
- 2 Rooibos or black tea bags
- Raw honey to taste (stevia, erythritol or maple syrup can also be used but raw honey offers extra throat soothing properties and helps control cough)
- Fresh lemon and cinnamon sticks to garnish (optional)
- Combine water, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon sticks, grated ginger and goji berries in a medium to large pot or saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add rooibos or black tea bags if using and steep covered for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Strain and serve with honey or a few drops of stevia to taste. Garnish with extra lemon slices or cinnamon sticks.
To Make in the Crockpot:
Yield: 2 to 4 Servings
Healthy and Delicious Hot Chocolate
- Combine water, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon sticks, grated ginger and goji berries in the slow cooker.
- Set to high for two to three hours or low for four to six hours and then keep warm.
- Add rooibos or black tea bags if using and steep for 3 to 5 minutes just before serving.
- Serve with honey or a few drops of stevia to taste. Garnish with extra lemon slices or cinnamon sticks.
- 1 cup of full fat vanilla coconut or almond milk (refrigerated or shelf-stable brand like Almond Breeze or So Delicious)
- 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of raw honey, Grade B maple syrup (or to taste)
- Pinch of sea salt
Yield: 1 cup
- Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan over high heat.
- Keep stirring until smooth and hot (avoid boiling).
- Then pour into a mug and serve piping hot.
Lindy Ford, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist who runs Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness, LLC, a private practice in Wilmington. She received her degree in Nutritional Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. She treats each patient according to their unique physiology so they can achieve long-term results. For more information, visit lindyfordwellness.com, call (443) 417-8352 or send an email to [email protected]. For more great nutritional advice, "Like" Lindy Ford Nutrition and Wellness on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lindy-Ford-Nutrition-Wellness.