How to Navigate Alcohol During the Holidays + 2 Holiday Cocktail Recipes!

With office holiday parties, family holiday parties, and New Year’s all coming up, it can feel like there isn’t a weekend in sight free from booze. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but alcohol isn’t exactly a nutritional powerhouse. High in calories and void of micronutrients, alcohol is best consumed in moderation.

how to navigate alcohol around the holidays

That being said, alcohol is deeply intertwined in social situations, especially come the holiday season. The best way to avoid the negative effects of drinking is to not drink – but realistically a lot of us do. Try adopting some of these healthy habits to ease the physical tax of all those holiday cocktails and mindfully navigate alcohol during the holidays.

Fuel your body

Let’s face it, if you’re planning to go out for a night of cocktails, health probably isn’t the driving factor behind that decision, and that’s okay! But, to ease the damage to your body, properly fuel up before drinking. Stick to clean, whole foods, and be sure to eat enough. It might feel like a good idea to eat a light salad before drinking, but you want to make sure you’re fueling up with a meal high in macros to help absorb some of that booze. Focus on proteins, healthy fats and healthy carbs – and don’t skimp on the veggies. 

A night of drinking can severely deplete your potassium levels, contributing to that horrible hangover you’re trying to avoid. So it’s also a good idea to load up on potassium before a cocktail party. Coconut water boasts 600mg of potassium per cup and is a great way to hydrate before drinking.

Stay hydrated

A lot of the negative effects from drinking too much can be explained by dehydration – think headaches, nausea, and excessive thirst. Properly hydrating before and during a night of drinking can help ease the negative symptoms you may feel the next day. Alternating cocktails with water can minimize some of the effects of dehydration. Plus, this approach will slow you down and is likely to reduce the total amount you drink.

Know your alcohol and choose wisely

You may have heard that certain types of liquor produce worse hangovers, and this is actually true. Congeners are a secondary component of alcoholic beverages – besides ethanol – that naturally occur throughout the process of producing spirits, beer, and wine. Congeners are toxic substances that contribute that horrible feeling you fear after a fun night out. As a rule of thumb, the darker the liquor, the more congeners it contains, so you’d be wise to stick to lighter colored drinks like vodka and gin. 

Tempted to toast the New Year with some bubbly? You may want to rethink that decision. As festive as it is to pop champagne as the ball drops, the carbon dioxide that produces the carbonation in sparkling wines like Champagne and prosecco is actually a major hangover culprit. CO2 facilitates absorption of alcohol and will make that champagne toast go to your head quickly, getting you tipsier than a non-carbonated drink and leading to a worse hangover. 

Limit alcohol intake

Your coworkers may want to go all out at that open bar at the office holiday party, but it’s always best to keep your alcohol intake on the lower side because of its lack of nutritional value. Take a step back before grabbing a second or third cocktail and ask yourself if you really need it – if not, maybe grab a sparkling water in a cocktail glass instead.

It’s also best to take a moderation approach throughout the entire holiday season. Just because there are going to be mimosas, pre-dinner cocktails, wine with dinner, and a nightcap with pie at your family Christmas party, doesn’t mean you need to have wine with dinner every night leading up to the holiday. If you know you have lots of boozy events coming up, maybe cut out happy hour on the off days.

Know your body

Following these tips will help you manage the upcoming boozy season, but the most important thing is to listen to your body. Some people are more sensitive to ethanol, congeners, and dehydration than others, so the likelihood of doing something regrettable or feeling awful the morning after drinking varies from person to person. Even if you can have three or four cocktails while keeping your head, remember not to get too many of your daily calories from cocktails.

Two Light Holiday Cocktail Recipes to Try

Thirsty for ideas on what exactly to drink? Try these two healthier cocktails and be able to enjoy a holiday season with fewer hangovers!

This lightened-up mimosa for your brunching needs:


  • 3 oz. your favorite white wine
  • ¼ cup orange flavored sparkling water

Mix, pour, enjoy!

This sugar-free holiday margarita:


  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp pure cranberry juice

Measure ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Pour the mixture over ice in your favorite glass (rimmed with salt, if you’re feeling fancy) and garnish with a wedge of lime.

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About Kira Schreiber

Kira grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is passionate about mental health, healthy eating, and sustainability. After spending the first part of her career working for a non profit mental health agency in Southern California, she transitioned to pursue a career in her passion for cooking. Now back in Chicago, Kira spends her days developing healthy recipes for a food tech start up. When not in the kitchen or on her laptop she loves spending time outdoors, hitting up a spin class, or watching home decor DIYs on YouTube.