Dry January - cold herbal and fruity ice drink in a jug

January is a challenging month in many ways. There’s a lot of pressure to start the New Year with a set of ambitious New Year’s resolutions, a new healthy eating plan and an intensive gym schedule to incorporate into your daily routine.

Added to that recently was the “Dry January” initiative, a campaign by Alcohol Concern to increase awareness of alcohol misuse and raise money to help those adversely affected by alcohol. Participants sign up to abstain from alcohol for a month, to give themselves a break after the relentlessly boozy celebrations of the festive season.

To cater for these brave souls, the first alcohol-free bar has opened up in the UK in East London to remove the temptation of booze you get while drinking soda and lime in a pub as your friends drink wine. The Redemption bar opened in 2013 to much debate as to whether it could become the norm to visit a bar like this for alcohol-free nights out, or whether it would be a short-lived novelty. If the food and drink is good, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be a success.

Cutting back on the booze could save you a few pounds (in terms of money and losing weight). If you have been feeling the effects of the Christmas excess, then now’s a good time to try out the quiz on the Drink Aware website. You can use the unit calculator to see where you sit compared with the government’s daily unit guidelines, and whether the amount that you are drinking is putting your health at risk. I believe that alcohol can be a part of a healthy balanced diet, but we should all be aware of what a unit of alcohol is and how many units we consume each week to make sure that we’ve got the right balance.

So, how many of us are aware that women and men shouldn’t be drinking more than 14 and 21 units of alcohol a week respectively, and how many of us know what a unit of alcohol actually means? One alcohol unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which equates to one-third of a pint of beer (ABV 5-6%) or half a standard glass (175ml) of red wine (ABV 12%). Bear that in mind next time you pour yourself a drink at home and compare it to what you drink in a typical week (perhaps not in the run-up to Christmas!). You might be surprised by how quickly the units stack up.

The NHS recommends that if you’ve had a heavy drinking session you should avoid alcohol for 48 hours. Really though, to minimise the risk of harming your health, it’s wise to stick to the daily limits of 2-3 units for women and 3-4 units for men, rather than drinking all your week’s units in a single night. Regularly drinking more than these daily amounts increases the risk of liver disease and certain types of cancer. When you take care in exercising regularly and eating well, don’t ruin the good work when it comes to alcohol!

If you’re doing Dry January or if you just fancy mixing it up with some tasty alcohol-free recipes, check out Jamie’s mocktail drink recipes. He’s got lots of ideas, from zingy ginger beer to simple flavoured water. You can also go to the Dry January website to get inspired. Their recipes are all free from added sugar, so aren’t laden with calories either!

About the author

Laura Matthews

Laura is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver. Her passion for food comes from having cooking lessons at a local college from the age of 10, and the nutrition side from a fascination for how the right foods can fuel the body.

Laura Matthews