According to Canada’s new guidelines on alcohol, consuming three to six standard drinks a week poses a moderate risk of developing several different types of cancer, while seven or more drinks increases the risk of heart disease or stroke.
The guidelines, released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addictions, or CCSA, outline a continuum of health risks associated with different amounts of alcohol. One to two standard drinks a week is considered low risk, but that risk increases with greater consumption. In general, the guidelines recommend not exceeding two drinks on any given day.
A standard drink is 17.05 millilitres or 13.45 grams of pure alcohol, which is the equivalent of:
- A bottle of beer (12 oz., 341 ml, 5% alcohol)
- A bottle of cider (12 oz., 341 ml, 5% alcohol)
- A glass of wine (5 oz., 142 ml, 12% alcohol)
- A shot of spirits (1.5 oz., 43 ml, 40% alcohol)
The new guidelines, funded by Health Canada, replace guidelines from 2011, which recommended no more than 10 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men.
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Catherine Paradis, interim associate director of research for the CCSA, says any reduction in drinking is still beneficial, even if it’s just one fewer drink.
If you want to cut back on your drinking this year, here are some tips to help you.
1. Count how many drinks you have in a week
The first step toward drinking less is understanding how much you typically consume in a week, using a journal, calendar or app to keep track. Then pick a weekly target and make a plan on how to stick to your limits.
2. Swap beers, wine and cocktails for non-alcoholic alternatives
If you’re trying to cut back on drinking when you go out, you don’t have to order club soda or pop. Non-alcoholic beer, wine and cocktails, which mimic the taste of the real thing, are becoming increasingly common on restaurant and bar menus. This new wave of alcohol-free alternatives arrives as more people are “sober curious” – a term used to describe people who are interested in drinking less.
And if you want to sling your own mocktails at home, follow these recipes for non-alcoholic riffs on classics like the Paloma, which swaps tequila for bubbly grapefruit soda.
3. Drink more water
The CCSA recommends drinking water between each alcoholic beverage. Drinking water keeps you hydrated, will slow down how quickly you’re consuming alcohol, and helps prevent the symptoms of hangovers, such as a headache.
4. Be prepared to say “no” if someone offers you a drink
It can be awkward explaining why you’re not drinking at an event or turning down a drink if someone offers you one. The CCSA recommends preparing for these kinds of situations and thinking about what you might say in response, such as “No thanks, I’m driving,” or simply say, “I’m cutting down on drinking for my health.”
5. Participate in Dry January – or try another month of abstinence
Whether it’s to feel healthier, save money or to lose weight (since alcohol has a lot of calories), going booze-free for a month has many benefits. It also gives you a chance to reflect on your relationship with alcohol: Why do you drink? How do you feel after you drink? Will you miss it after those 31 days? Dry January provides an opportunity to think about how drinking affects you physically, mentally and socially.
6. Visit booze-free hotels, shops and events
The hospitality industry is increasingly catering to people who want to drink less alcohol with new booze-free hotels, bars and shops in cities across Canada and the United States. When you’re making travel plans, consider visiting one of these places, such as the non-alcoholic bottle shop Soft Spirits in Los Angeles or The Bandbox, a non-alcoholic bar and bottle shop in Orlando.