Green beers for St. Patrick’s Day? A dietitian weighs in.
It’s easy to go overboard on alcohol, especially on holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day. But you should know that binge-drinking, or excessive amounts of alcohol drank regularly, leads to major problems with your liver, pancreas, and heart.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines has not changed its guidelines on alcohol—it’s still recommended to stick to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men—so alcohol is something we still need to be careful with consuming. Alcohol isn’t necessary for promoting good health like healthy eating and physical activity. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly are still your best bets for good health.
Updated research did explore whether men should decrease alcohol intake from two drinks per day to one drink per day, since alcohol isn’t recommended for health promotion. For Midwesterners who enjoy local beverages, that may be hard to hear!
That said, if you’re male and drinking two drinks per day and it isn’t affecting your health, that’s not necessarily a problem. Just make sure you are actually sticking to two drinks per day.
Even with this updated information, it’s important to realize that the basics of a healthy diet haven’t changed. Follow an overall healthy dietary pattern rather than focusing on individual nutrients. It’s what we eat over the course of weeks, months, and years that makes a big difference in our health — not a single meal or day. Enjoying special foods to celebrate the holiday is alright, especially if it’s an exception in a generally healthy diet.
Don’t expect to be perfect. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” You don’t have to eat perfect 100% of the time. Aim for closer to 80-90% of the time. This allows for some flexibility to have a couple treats here and there. And when you do slip, catch it quickly and get back on track.
In your overall diet, focus on eating mostly nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, low fat or fat-free dairy, lean protein foods such as poultry, fish, eggs, and healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts & seeds. Eat sensible portions and balance this with physical activity.
Even one day of binge-drinking can be dangerous, so please drink responsibly on St. Patrick’s Day. Remember to take water breaks, don’t drink on an empty stomach, and as always, know your limits.
Heather Klug is a registered dietitian with Aurora Health Care.
About the Author
Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.