Diet blog: A tipple too far?

Judith Wills / 28 July 2016

Our diet expert weighs up the effect of a regular glass of wine on her waistline and suggests some alcohol-free alternatives to drink with dinner.

It’s no use pretending that I don’t enjoy a tipple on a fairly regular basis. An evening meal never quite tastes as good without a glass of wine to help things along.  And a cold winter’s night seems so much better with a tot of decent brandy or whisky or Bourbon sipped before bed.

Are you drinking more than you think?

While I can go without a drink if I must, have occasionally given up for weeks at a time over the years, never drink during the day and have definitely cut down my overall consumption of alcohol by at least half in the past few years, I would prefer to carry on drinking – a bit - until I pop my clogs.

Last time I had a liver test it was fine.  About the only downsides I can see to drinking – if one is in reasonable health and has not been told by a specialist to desist - are the cost, the guilt that is always lurking because we’re so often told that the only safe level is to drink nothing at all, and the certainty that if I am not careful I easily put weight on especially round the middle, so for every glass of wine I have, I need to say ‘no’ to a treat.    While dry wine doesn’t contain much sugar, alcohol has around the same calories as carbohydrates, of which sugar is one.  So no desserts, no biscuits, cake, chocolate and the like. 

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That’s a sacrifice I can make as I really do prefer the wine.  And I have no other vices – I don’t smoke, do drugs, or anything else on the disapproved, unhealthy or illegal lists. 

However, I’m always mindful that it is people like me – fairly middle-class, midlife, middle of the road, law abiding, invisible, I suppose – who appear to drink much more alcohol on a regular basis than any other category of citizens in the UK.  Middle England – the secret society of drinkers.  And many of us, apparently, are problem drinkers. 

Just the other day a new report came out showing that the number of alcohol-related illnesses here has doubled in ten years, and that 1.1 million hospital admissions last year were caused by alcohol.

So should you, for any reason, be thinking about cutting back or cutting it out, here are my tips for how to make your life as pleasant as possible as you do so.  If nothing else, like me, you may find your waist circumference diminishing a little; a health benefit in itself.

1.  Find something you enjoy to drink with your food instead of wine.  I do enjoy a nice still water, but some meals marry well with a top range non-alcoholic ginger beer.  Bear in mind some ginger beers are high or quite high in sugar and calories, so go for one such as Luscombe Hot Ginger Beer, which is only 100 calories for a bottle and has about half the sugar of many brands.

Mocktail recipes - cocktails with lots of flavour but no booze

2.  Many people find non-alcoholic ‘wines’ just don’t do the trick, but one or two are better than others. Eisberg Rose gets plenty of reasonable reviews, is very low in calories and quite low in sugar.

3.  If low-cal, low-alc wine is not your thing, how about Bavaria Wit beer – 0% alcohol and a good refreshing drink for summer – a 330ml bottle has 89 calories.

4.  A Peter Spanton beverage on plenty of ice.  All the Spanton range of drinks are delicious and rich with flavour so somehow you don’t miss alcohol and one or two are dry enough not to ruin your supper.  Try Beverage No 1, London Tonic, No 5, Lemongrass, No 9, Cardamom, or No 13, Salted Paloma.

5.  Iced tea.  Another lovely summer drink and if you choose well it can go perfectly with lunch or supper.  Delia Smith had a recipe in her old book, Delia’s Summer Collection, which was simply brewed English Breakfast tea stirred with a little orange and lime juice and lots of ice added.

6.  Or of course you could cut down gradually by having a white wine spritzer (wine and sparkling water), gradually increasing the amount of water to wine until you are just enjoying the water!

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