Non-alcoholic drinks – How healthy are they?

By author photo Megan Alsford

health

Alcohol can play a big part in our social interactions and celebrations, but attitudes are gradually shifting towards alcohol free or non-alcoholic drinks. This may be because of the many benefits of reducing or quitting alcohol. For example:

  • Better sleep
  • More energy
  • Greater concentration
  • Lower risk of health problems such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Avoiding alcohol can also make weight loss easier as alcohol is high in kilojoules or energy. Alcohol can also lower your inhibitions, making healthier food and lifestyle choices harder. And finally, as alcohol can interrupt your sleep it can leave you feeling tired and less likely to get moving and keep your physical activity routine.

The shift away from alcohol has seen a growth in non-alcoholic drinks and versions of popular drinks such as non-alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic wine and even some non-alcoholic spirits. These drinks can be helpful for those looking to cut back on alcohol but still wanting to enjoy a drink at social gatherings. But are they useful for those wanting to lose weight?


A word of caution

The answer to this question really depends on the type of drink and how it is made as the process to make these drinks alcohol free varies. Essentially there are two methods. The first is to create a drink and take the alcohol out either by heating or filtration. This is often the process chosen by a variety of non-alcoholic drinks such as alcohol free wines and beers. The other method is to create a drink with a similar flavor profile without alcohol from the beginning such as some alcohol-free gins.

When drinks have their alcohol content removed, some alcohol still remains and so too does the added sugar and other ingredients in the drink. A bottle of alcohol-free chardonnay, for example, still has roughly 8 teaspoons of sugar which may not be so helpful if you’re watching your energy intake. Some alcohol-free beers can have a similar kilojoule content to full strength beer due to the extra sugar added back to the drink to improve the flavor lost from removing the alcohol.

On the other hand, some distillers have found a way to extract the botanical elements of gin to get the same flavors without the need to ever add alcohol in the first place. These types of drinks don’t have any alcohol added and if they haven’t had any sugar added for flavour then they also contain zero kilojoules. These types of drinks could be helpful if you’re looking to cut back on your alcohol and energy intake while still enjoying a special drink for a celebration. Just be sure to check if anything else has been added to the drink first.


What to look for

To know if a drink has energy or alcohol in it, look at the label on the back of the bottle. Here you are looking for how much energy (kilojoules) the drink has per serve and zero alcohol content, not a percentage reduced alcohol. Ideally, the kilojoules should be zero or very low. If not, then you’re just looking at an expensive cordial. Once you find a drink with little energy and no alcohol then the key would be to enjoy it neat (simply added to ice) or use kilojoule free mixes. Some of these distilled drinks would be a nice addition to our Watermelon Mojito Mocktail and Mango Madness Mocktail recipes.

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