How to drink in moderation this Christmas

Most of us will have a drink or two over the festive season. But at this time of year it’s easy to go overboard with alcohol. Not drinking at all may be unthinkable, even if you’re not much of a drinker at other times of the year. So what’s the best way to make sure you don’t over indulge?

Drinking too much alcohol can have a negative impact on your health. That’s why the government has issued advice about safe limits where alcohol is concerned. This includes not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week if you’re an adult man or woman.

So what is a unit of alcohol exactly? According to the Drinkaware campaign, one alcohol unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. This is what you find in a 25ml single measure of standard-strength whisky and other spirits (40% ABV), 76ml of standard-strength wine (13% ABV), 250ml standard-strength beer or alcopop (4% ABV) and 218ml standard-strength cider (4.5% ABV). ABV stands for alcohol by volume, and it represents the percentage of alcohol in any given drink.

Tricks to drink less

Sticking to 14 units during the week between Christmas and New Year may seem like a challenge, but there are ways of cutting down. Here are a few you can try, while still enjoying your share of festive cheer:

Set yourself a limit – Whether you’re at home or going out to a Christmas party, if you know you’re going to be drinking try to set yourself a limit before you start – then sticking to it. Spreading your units evenly throughout the festive week means avoiding having too many units on a single occasion – in other words, binge drinking. To give you an idea of how many units you may want to limit yourself to, Drinkaware says that the risks of short-term harm such as accidents and injuries increase between two to five times from drinking five to seven units – that’s the equivalent of two to three pints of beer or two large glasses of wine.

Mix your drinks – One way to make your quota of alcohol last longer is to alternate each glass of alcohol with a glass of water, juice or another soft drink. Try making your first drink a non-alcoholic one, as you’re more likely to drink your first drink quickly, especially if you’re thirsty. Also have your non-alcoholic drinks in normal wine or beer glasses – this can make you feel you’re not depriving yourself (plus it may put off others who want to tempt you to drink more, as it won’t look so obvious that not every drink you have is an alcoholic one).

It’s also a good idea to have something to eat before you drink, as this will help slow down the rate that alcohol is absorbed into your system (drinking with food will also help).

Ask for small measures – It’s become popular to have some drinks in bigger and bigger glasses – wine is a notable example. But drinking from big glasses can make you lose touch with how much you’re drinking. Instead, ask for a smaller glass – 125ml instead of 250ml, for instance. Or if you’re drinking beer, lager or cider, try having half pints instead of pints. It’s also a good idea to say no to top-ups, as topping up your glass before it’s empty is an easy way of losing track of how much alcohol you’ve had.

Water your drinks down – Another way to cut down on the alcohol you’re drinking is to choose spritzers if you’re drinking wine, or a shandy or lager top if you’re on pints. Every bit of alcohol you replace with a non-alcoholic fluid will help.

Avoid drinking in rounds – When you’re out with friends it can be tempting to buy drinks in rounds. But this may make you drink much faster than when you’re just buying your own, as you’ll be keeping pace with whoever’s drinking the fastest. Just aim to take charge of your own drinking and go slow – try not to worry about how much alcohol everyone else is having and how fast they’re drinking it.

Take it easy at home – Pouring your own drinks rather than buying drinks from a bar can make it harder for you to keep track of how much you’re drinking, especially if you tend to be generous with your measures. Try using a measuring cup if you’re having spirits and pouring them yourself.

The above tips will help you drink in moderation. But even the most well-intentioned among us may slip up, especially at this time of year. So ask your local Careway pharmacist for advice on coping with the after-effects of drinking a glass too many before you get caught short. Your pharmacist can also recommend over-the-counter remedies that may help relieve a pounding head or an upset stomach the morning after the night before.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.