Can I go to the pub – and stay healthy?

People hanging out in a cafe

Rachel ClarkRachel Clark is Health Promotion Manager at World Cancer Research Fund

As lockdown lifts, some people are excited about getting back into pubs and gardens to have a drink with friends and family. Others, who may be trying to cut down on alcohol, could be anxious about socialising in pubs again.

For cancer prevention, it’s best to limit alcohol intake, and we should drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over at least three days. Limiting alcohol can reduce the risk of six common cancers as well as other diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

Top tips for reducing alcohol

  • Start with a non-alcoholic drink. Making your first drink a non-alcoholic one can help to quench your thirst and reduce your overall alcohol intake. Try having a diet soft drink, lime and soda or even just a glass of water with ice and lemon.
  • Choose a smaller serving size. Choose half a pint, a single measure of spirits or a small glass of wine over larger serving sizes.
  • Try to make your drink last. Drink slowly and take your time.
  • Dilute. You could opt for a shandy or a 50:50 white wine spritzer.
  • Alternate. After you’ve had an alcoholic drink, choose a non-alcoholic drink to help reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.
  • Go alcohol free. Why not mix it up and try alcohol-free beers, wines and mocktails?
  • Remember to keep an eye on bar snacks. Salty nuts and crisps can make us thirsty and encourage us to drink more. Choose an appetiser instead such as crudités, unsalted popcorn, unsalted nuts, roasted chickpeas, breads and dips.

What about meeting friends at restaurants and cafes?

Excited about that first meal out but want to make healthier choices? Here are some suggestions on how to have healthier meals out:

  • Read the menu before you go (they are often available online) so you know what the healthier options are.
  • Why not share where it’s appropriate to do so? You could share a starter or even a main and order some healthier sides to bulk it out. Share a dessert or choose coffee instead.
  • Choose a soup or salad starter. This can help take the edge off your appetite.
  • Pick tomato-based sauces over creamy ones.
  • If it’s a big portion don’t feel pressured to finish it – ask to box it up and take it home for the next day.
  • Watch the alcohol – try the alcohol tips above. You could also ask for a jug of water for the table to reduce your alcohol and sugary drink intake.

What about going for coffee and cake?

  • Choose a skinny latte over a regular one or opt for milk alternatives like oat milk.
  • Try a smaller size/portion.
  • Flavoured coffees and iced drinks can contain a lot of added sugar. Choose an iced Americano and add the sugar/sweetener yourself according to your taste.
  • Give herbal teas a go.
  • Share the cake or choose a toasted tea cake to reduce the calories.

Remember, it’s the wider balance of our diet that is important so enjoy your meal out or coffee meet-up and really savour it if you’re treating yourself!

> Entertaining at home? Check out our healthy BBQ guide