This is a question we’ve found ourselves considering lately. Maybe, like us, you put in the extra effort to buy organic, avoid foods you know you’re sensitive to, use natural skincare products, or spend your Saturday morning at a reformer class instead of brunch. Does a glass of wine with dinner or Margarita on vacation derail all that effort? Are alcohol and wellness mutually exclusive or is a “healthy” balance possible? Luckily, finding balance is what Mia Rigden, a New York-based holistic health coach and founder of RASA, does best. Here she answers all our alcohol-related questions.
Can someone on a wellness journey also enjoy a drink? If so, how often? “Absolutely. While it’s arguably ‘healthier’ to abstain from drinking altogether, for many people (myself included) that’s just not realistic. If you go out often or like to pour yourself a glass of wine at the end of the day, I recommend keeping alcoholic drinks to single digits (meaning less than ten) per week, and trying not to have more than two to three in a given night. If you really want to ramp it up, keep your drinks under five servings per week. I find that when my clients start rationing their alcohol intake, they realize how easy (and unnecessary) it is to have three or four drinks at a Tuesday night work event.
Another issue with drinking is that having a bit too much can have a real domino effect. On the day you drink, you’re consuming empty calories and might overeat. Then the next day, you feel a little sluggish or hungover. Maybe you skip the gym and make food choices you wouldn’t normally make. You get the point. In addition to the number of drinks consumed, there should be a few days a week where you don’t drink at all, as alcohol does affect your sleep and the empty calories can keep you from hitting your wellness goals. And, while I do believe that there’s room for moderate alcohol intake in a healthy diet, there should be some periods of abstinence. I offer 10 and 21-day whole foods detox programs, called The RASA Challenge which omits drinking. My clients are often surprised how much they crave alcohol at the beginning — even for light drinkers — and how by the end of the program they no longer feel the need for it. That’s not to say that they never drink again, but understanding and being in control of your relationship with alcohol is important.”
Are some drinks/alcohols more or less healthy? “I’m a big fan of natural wines, which do not have additives or sulfates. I prefer red wine over white, as many (not all!) whites, roses, and sparkling wines have added sugars. Tequila or mezcal is my preferred spirit. It’s low in calories and made of 100% agave. Quality also matters. I always say ‘drink better, drink less’.”
Any suggestions for making a healthier version? “At events like weddings or parties where you think you might be having a few more than normal, ask for a wine spritzer (rose or white wine with soda water), or alternate alcoholic drinks with soda, lime, and bitters — it feels and looks just like a cocktail! I also recommend staying away from sugary drinks, which are much easier to throw back, full of empty calories, and can make hangovers worse. I think you should taste your liquor — order a tequila on the rocks and you’ll be nursing it all night!”
Any favorite hangover preventions or remedies? “The best way to prevent a hangover is to not drink too much (obviously!). Find a creative way to have one less drink. Try for a pot of herbal tea instead of a nightcap, or don’t have that drink at the bar while you wait for your table to be ready. Your body will thank you in the morning. And if the damage is already done, eat hydrating foods and tons of plants the next day. Hangovers can lead to an insatiable urge to eat, so swap the chips with vegetables and don’t worry too much about the quantity. Remember, if you’re not hungry for carrot sticks, you’re not really hungry!”
What’s your drink of choice? “I like light-bodied red wines, natural of course, and tequila. My favorite wines are French or Italian, but Donkey & Goat in Berkely, California makes wonderful natural wines. I also recently discovered Dry Farm Wines, a natural wine club based out of California. Casa Dragones is my all-time favorite tequila. It does not need any mixers, salt, or lime!”