How to drink responsibly at the holidays

Monday, December 3, 2018

By: Dr. Lynn K. Wagner

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Wine and cocktail glasses raised in a toast at a Christmas gathering.

Alcohol is part of our culture, enjoyed during holidays, celebrations, and for many, daily life. As a Wisconsinite, I can tell you there is almost never an event I attend that doesn’t involve some type of alcoholic beverage.


When people explore wellness, they often wonder what to do with alcohol. While this is best decided on a case-by-case basis, here are some tips you can use to decide whether alcohol is for you and how much you want to enjoy as part of a healthy diet.


7 simple tips to think about as you navigate drinking and your social life

Gender matters. The accepted recommendation is that alcohol be consumed in moderation. That means women can enjoy one alcoholic beverage per day and men up to two drinks per day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Anything more exceeds moderate drinking.


Consider your health. If you have a chronic or acute medical condition and/or take certain over-the-counter or prescription medications it may be best to steer clear of alcohol. Talk to your doctor. If you’re pregnant or under 21, don’t drink.


Binge drinking is for the birds. Excessive drinking only leads to trouble. Binge drinking is four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men within about two hours, often raising the blood-alcohol level to the legal limit of 0.08 percent or more. Heavy drinking is 8 or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more drinks a week for men. Beyond the hangover, there are many risks, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They include unintentional injuries (from car crashes, falls, burns and alcohol poisoning), violence (homicide, suicide, domestic violence and sexual assault), sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, poor pregnancy outcomes (miscarriage and stillbirth), chronic diseases (high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, liver disease), cancer (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon), memory and learning problems, and alcohol dependence.


Uber, Lyft and designated drivers are your friends. Consider your blood alcohol content. It’s always safest to abstain from drinking when you are the driver. Your car will still be there in the morning!


Know your history. If there is a history of alcoholism in your family or if you have struggled with alcoholism, know your risks. Many studies have shown that genetic factors influence alcoholism, with children of alcoholics about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Alcohol is always best when served with some good grub! Food slows the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream, which is always a good thing.


Take a sabbatical. I encourage everyone to take a two to four-week break from alcohol if drinking is a regular part of their life. You will never know whether alcohol is ruling your life or creating health issues until you remove it for a while.


5 ways to drink with your health in mind

If you are going to drink, choose wisely! Whether you are clean eating, trying to lose weight or simply trying to optimize your health, stick with these options to stay low on carbs and sugar.


  1. A non-alcoholic spritzer. Sparkling water drinks are a great way to be part of the drinking crowd.
  2. Red wine, which has more antioxidants than most kinds of alcohol.
  3. Champagne, or sparkling wine, which has fewer calories than sweet wines and often has smaller serving sizes than other alcoholic beverages.
  4. Low-carb beer.
  5. Low-carb alcoholic drinks (original, unflavored vodka, rum, gin, tequila, whiskey, scotch, brandy, cognac) mixed with sparkling water or diet sodas. Flavored spirits often contain additional carbohydrates.


Stay in control, choose wisely, drink in moderation, be responsible and enjoy your spirits!



Dr. Lynn K. Wagner is an integrative lifestyle medicine physician with BayCare Clinic. She sees patients in De Pere. To request an appointment, call 920-327-7056 or do so online.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.