How to Drink Less During the Holidays, According to a Dietitian

Use these tips and tricks to curb alcohol consumption at your next holiday party.

November 21, 2022

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Photo by: MarianVejcik/Getty Images

MarianVejcik/Getty Images

Recently, I had dinner with a friend, and she asked me a lot of questions about how I would navigate my upcoming birthday and the holidays without alcohol. (In case you missed it, I gave up drinking almost two years ago and, despite popular belief, I am able to go out with my friends and have fun.) Many of my patients at CulinaHealth say they feel afraid of the holidays because we have become a culture that normalizes drinking with all happy occasions. Naturally, those trying to curb alcohol consumption may feel a little anxious about this.

However, I’m here to tell you that it’s not impossible to limit your drinking even during the holiday season. These are the tips and tricks I give to my patients on how to navigate the holidays and still stay sober — if that's what you want to do.

You Don't Have to Go To Every Party.

There, I said it. I get it. Holiday parties are fun, your friends are going, your boss is making you go, your crush is going to be there, and you don't want to miss out. I'm here for all of it but hear me out: What if you just said “No?” What if you picked the holiday events that are most important to you and just went to those? Or what if you decided to only attend one or two events a week? Reducing the amount of times you're around alcohol can help you with reducing your total intake or eliminating it totally.

Don’t Drink Unless You’ve Had a Meal.

If you are going to holiday party and don’t want to drink, make a rule that you absolutely may not have a drink unless you've eaten a full dinner. (And no, you may not eat dinner before you leave for the party.) Often, holiday parties only have passed appetizers or a very late dinner, and by the time it's all over, it's time to go home. Either way, you’ll have made it out unscathed. One caveat: If there wasn't a real meal, please eat something with a protein, fat, and carbohydrate when you get home so you don't wake up ravenously hungry the next day.

Make Time Limits Around Drinking.

When I first stopped drinking, I would often go to an event and say if I truly wanted a drink, I would have to wait until 9pm to have it. I would drink club sodas, and by the time 9pm rolled around, the fun bubbly party I first walked into looked very different. (Remember that feeling of being the sober one in a group of drunk friends?) This is usually the time you realize that you've forgotten about drinking entirely and are ready to go home to get a well-deserved good night's sleep.

Ask Your Friends to Do Something Fun that Doesn’t Involve Drinking.

Take the lead and ask your friends to enjoy time together that isn't at a bar or restaurant. Rock climbing, a cooking class, spa treatments, or even just a simple walk during the day can be fun activities to do together. Shift your mindset and throw out to your group of friends something that they haven't thought of but you know they will enjoy. I guarantee you will be the hero of the group for coming up with the idea, and it'll turn into something you all do for years to come.

Finally, Just Don’t Drink.

I know it can be uncomfortable when someone asks you why you aren't drinking, but you've made a choice not to drink, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation. I mean, you aren't asking them why they are drinking. People have many reasons for not drinking and alcoholism isn't the only one. It's a deeply personal choice and people should be supported and celebrated for that choice.

Bottom line: The holidays are a great time to connect with friends and family and you don't have to drink to have a good time. However, if you do decide to drink, there's nothing wrong with that either. Every situation is different whether you choose to drink or not is personal to you. If you feel you need support, reach out to a friend, a therapist, and even your healthcare provider. They can help you navigate staying sober even during the holiday season.

Vanessa Rissetto received her MS in Marketing at NYU and completed her Dietetic Internship at Mount Sinai Hospital where she worked as a Senior Dietitian for five years. She is the co-founder of Culina Health and is certified in Adult Weight Management (Levels I & II) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the founder of Culina Health. Her work in private practice also includes treatment of GI disorders, bariatric surgery, weight management, PCOS, and family nutrition. She loves helping clients take an active role in their health journey, motivating them and ensuring that they always achieve success. Vanessa was named by one of the top 5 black nutritionists that will change the way you think about food by Essence magazine. Vanessa lives in Hoboken NJ with her husband, two kids and their new goldendoodle Freddie. An exercise enthusiast, she is always up for a class as long as it's after she rides her Peloton.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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