Be a savvy drinker

Pouring wine

Many people have an alcohol-free January then go back to their usual habits, but you’ll get more benefit from cutting down for good. Here’s how:

Keep an alcohol diary

Official guidelines say that women should consume no more than two to three alcohol units a day and men no more than three to four a day. But it’s easy to underestimate how much you’re really drinking, as measures and strengths of drinks vary.

Read more about alcohol units

Drop a size

Many wine menus state how many millilitres (ml) a glass contains, ranging from small (125ml) to large (250ml). A standard (750ml) bottle of wine contains nine or ten units, but supermarkets are now stocking smaller sizes, including 500ml bottles (about six units) and 187ml bottles (just over two units). If you’re a beer drinker, swapping from pints to bottles could reduce your intake, too. A single pub measure (25ml) of spirits is just one unit, but if you drink at home, buy a spirit measure.

Read the label

Beers and wines are stronger than ten to 20 years ago, with average beers about five per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) and average wines about 12 per cent ABV. This means that one drink can often contain about three units of alcohol.

Buy small glasses

Use small glasses to encourage you to drink slower, and buy a vacuum pump and stopper to keep wine fresh after it’s opened so you’re not tempted to finish off the bottle.

Take a break

Have a few alcohol-free days a week. This will help you keep your weekly units down. Drinking too much alcohol can result in abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure and damage to the heart muscle.

Find soft substitutes

Try experimenting with sparkling water and low-sugar cordials to find a tasty alternative to alcohol.

Related publications

More useful information