VinePair Podcast: Maintaining a Healthy Beverage Alcohol Lifestyle with NBC’s Joy Bauer

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This week, on a bonus episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” host Adam Teeter is joined by Joy Bauer, NBC “Today” show’s healthy lifestyle expert. The two discuss the various ways to establish a healthy lifestyle with alcohol during the summer months. Bauer walks listeners through several tips, such as recommended serving sizes, lower-calorie cocktail ideas, and more.

Bauer also implores listeners to be cognizant of how they consume alcohol — recommending that listeners sip slowly and hydrate often. Finally, Bauer shares her favorite healthy food pairings as we enter summer.

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Adam Teeter: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter, and this is a “VinePair Podcast” conversation. And today, we are thrilled to be talking with Joy Bauer, the NBC “Today” show healthy lifestyle expert. Joy, thank you so much for joining me.

Joy Bauer: Oh, Adam, it’s so great to be with you. And of course, to talk about wine.

A: I’m super pumped. There’s so much to get into when it comes to healthy lifestyles and drinking. We’re coming into the summer months, so people are going to be outside. We’re thinking a little bit about how we imbibe in a way that has balance and also think about our bathing suits and things like that. I can’t wait to talk to you about all those things. All right, Joy. This actually gets me into my first question for you: How do we think about a healthy lifestyle when we think about alcohol? I think everyone knows that alcohol inherently is something that is not 100 percent good for us. But then there are all of these other studies that show there are great benefits to our heart, great benefits to our circulation, etc. What do you think about wine and health?

J: Well, I think that alcohol in general is very personal. Everybody needs to speak with their physician because there are some medical conditions that would preclude people from drinking alcohol. That’s why it’s very, very important that if you do have specific medical concerns, that you speak with your physician and have them look through the research together with you and make a decision. At the end of the day, alcohol in moderation is enjoyable. It’s just exciting. It’s delicious. It’s pleasurable. As you know, I’m a big wine lover. I love mixed cocktails as well. As long as you’re smart about it, the key is moderation. I hate using that word “moderation” because it’s so vague, but when it comes to alcohol, it really means up to one serving of alcohol each day for women and up to two for men. Normally, the way that we measure that one serving would be a 5-ounce glass of wine, whether it be white, red, or Champagne. One cocktail, which would entail a shot of hard liquor. Or, a 12-ounce beer. Again, it’s up to one serving for women each day and up to two for men. And of course, there’s going to be days when you’re going to want to double up and then skip on other days of the week. Again, it’s very personal. It’s something that we all want to factor in for the most part.

A: When we think about these servings, does this recommendation change when we start to talk about low-alcohol wines or low-alcohol cocktails? Are these serving sizes based on sugar content, or are they based on alcohol content, calorie content? These are from the government, right? The government makes these recommendations.

J: The recommendations that I just stated are specifically based on the alcohol content. I think it’s about 14 grams of alcohol per serving. We’re not factoring in calories or anything, so when you talk about lower alcohol or a non-alcoholic cocktail, that doesn’t even necessarily fit in because you can enjoy as many of that sort of thing as you want, as long as weight management is not a concern. If it is a concern, then you do want to look at the calories as well.

A: OK, what do you recommend in terms of finding balance when it comes to drinking wine, for example? If we’re thinking about lower-alcohol or lower-calorie wines, what are other recommendations you would make for people in terms of how they are finely balanced, whether they’re thinking about how many calories they’re taking in or they’re thinking about the foods they would eat? What recommendations would you give for a balanced lifestyle? I know that we always think about that quintessential pairing being a big red wine with a steak. Maybe that’s not the best if we’re also trying to be healthier and run a marathon at the end of the summer, right? What are some tips and tricks you have for people finding that balance, that pleasure they want, but also making sure that they’re not undoing the Peloton workout they did earlier that day?

J: Right. The great news about wine, in general, is that we sip it. We don’t gulp. And so a glass of wine is about 5 ounces. A lot of us happen to have a heavy hand and we have these large, gigantic, beautiful wine glasses, so maybe it’s going to be a little bit more than 5 ounces. Five ounces is just about 120 calories. If you’re savoring and sipping, it’s not a big deal. So one to two glasses is not going to make or break what you’ve burned during your Peloton workout. That being said, a lot of times what will happen is getting that buzz on, your inhibitions go down, and there’s a lot of food present while you’re sipping and enjoying that wine as well. It’s more the food that’s going to get you into trouble versus the cocktail. I also want to say that there’s not much of a difference between white wine, red wine, and Champagne, for that matter. I would say if you love a Cab, go for the Cab. If you prefer a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir or something a little bit lighter like rosé, you can go for that as well. I think the name of the game is to sip it slow, savor the flavor and the experience. Again, if you can stop at one, that would be a really great idea. If you want more than one, a great strategy is to have a club soda or a glass of water in between each of your cocktails because it’s going to keep you hydrated. Alcohol will naturally dehydrate you, so that’s a great strategy to not only keep you hydrated but also slow down your booze intake. Again, I think the important takeaway here is to enjoy the cocktail and just to make sure that you don’t start grabbing and gobbling down all of the food that’s on the table at the same time because that’s really going to get you in trouble.

A: Right. When it comes to these lower-alcohol wines we’re starting to see on the market, are these good alternatives, you think, for the person who is not wanting to only have one glass? I think of myself as a perfect example. I want to have a glass of wine while cooking, at least, and then I want to have a glass with dinner. Dinner never takes me 15 minutes to make. It always takes 30 to 45 minutes, so by the time I’m done making dinner, I’ve had my glass of wine, and now I’m at the table and I’d like to have a second glass with my wife. I guess for me, the dietary restrictions are that I could have two. But what could I do? Would these lower-alcohol, lower-calorie wines be good for me? What are some other things besides that that could help?

J: From the booze perspective, you’re right on point, because you are slowing down your alcohol consumption. At the same time, you’re enjoying that experience because it doesn’t taste like grape juice. It’s fermented, it’s aged, and then they filter out the alcohol, so you are still having that glorious experience of sipping something that is bold-flavored and absolutely scrumptiously delicious. So yes, from the perspective of booze. But from the perspective of calories, what’s happening is you are consuming a lot more than if you were just drinking water. For people that are looking to lose some weight or maintain an ideal weight that they’re at right now, and their body is sensitive, I would say you still have to watch your consumption just like you would with fruit juice. You want to watch the consumption of the non-alcoholic variations of wine as well, but it’s such a great thing. They are incredibly divine these days. They’re very intricate and they have all of those flavors that we crave and love in regular booze-containing wine, alcohol-containing wine. It allows people to really engage in the experience — specifically for people that either have medical conditions that preclude them from having alcohol or for people that have alcohol issues. They want to be social and they want to engage in the experience with all of their friends, but at the same time, they can’t have alcohol. I’m really thrilled about the explosion of non-alcoholic wines, but at the same time, they do have calories. We still have to be careful. We can’t be guzzling them in the same way that we’re not guzzling fruit juice, because it will wind up becoming problematic with adding weight.

A: What are some other tips and tricks that you have to recommend in terms of just finding balance when it comes to drinking, especially as we’re heading into the summer? I think the summer months, especially coming out of Covid, provide a lot of opportunities for us to be socializing with friends. People will say, “Oh yeah, I’ll have another Aperol Spritz.” Or, “Man, I’m so happy to be with people. Let’s open up another bottle of wine.” I know certain people in my social circles will have three days where they don’t drink, and that’s how they find balance. Also, they do the trick you’re talking about, which is a drink and then a glass of water. Are there methods you found that work for people that are easy to deal with that you can recommend?

J: Everything that you mentioned is great, and those are all in my bag of strategies. I think planning ahead can be super helpful. For example, if you’re really working on weight management, we’re not going to look at the booze perspective first. Just from the perspective of weight management, feeling comfortable in your skin, and getting ready for bathing suit season and the beach, you can give yourself an allotment of, let’s say, five to seven drinks per week. And then, you can strategically and selectively plan out what your week is going to look like. You don’t necessarily want to use it up when you’re alone and preparing dinner. You want to save it for when you’re social and when you’re out. The other thing is, know that when a good bottle of wine is going to be popped open, you’re probably going to want to be able to have wiggle room for two glasses, right? Another thing that I like to tell people to do is to be creative with mixed cocktails. I think some of the biggest caloric offenders are the simple sugars and the creamy liquors that we add into our mixed cocktails. I like to use fresh, muddled fruit in so many different drinks that I make, and they’re so incredibly delicious. For example, I make a blackberry Margarita by just muddling some fresh, plump blackberries. You could even use frozen; just let them thaw a little bit. I mix that with some lime juice and a dash of honey, and I’ll add some tequila in there and a little bit of either sparkling wine or even lime-flavored seltzer water. That makes the most insanely indulgent Margarita. Sometimes it’s all about the presentation. You could put it in a beautiful Margarita glass. You could put a little bit of lime around the outside rim and dip it in some coarse salt. And you have a party, but it’s good for you. Sometimes I’ll even put on a toothpick a number of plump blackberries and float them in as garnish. Then, not only do you have a cocktail, you’ve got a little snack waiting for you as well. Again, any single drink that you love, it could be a Moscow Mule or it could be just about anything. Also, I have a lot of fun with Sangria. I make a pomegranate Sangria. I make all sorts of fruity Sangrias. You can be strategic and clever and figure out a way that it still satisfies that delicious fix that you’re looking for, but at the same time, it’s healthy, it’s good for you, and maybe it’s a little bit lighter in booze as well.

A: OK, cool. Are there also other things you recommend in terms of certain foods you should be thinking about having? If you’re at a barbecue, for example, and we know there’s going to be lots of wines, beers, and cocktails open and being served. Should we then be thinking about healthier foods that we’re pairing with these drinks as opposed to the burger covered in special sauce, cheese, and all that stuff?

J: Absolutely. I think one of the best strategies that everybody could think about getting ready for the summer is to incorporate a vegetable into every single meal and snack. The reason I say this is because veggies are high volume and low in calories. They fill us up without filling us out. Even better than that, they are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They shower our bodies with all of the right stuff to leave us feeling energized and healthy. They promote glowing complexions. They enable us to think more clearly, and I love being able to tell people to add something into their diet versus taking something out. Whenever you’re at a party or you’re hosting a gathering, crudités are the bomb. For dips, you could do things like hummus, guac, salsa, hot sauce — anything that’s light and refreshing and engages people to polish off that crudité platter. Be ready to refill it, because if you’re sipping a cocktail and you’re eating a lot of crudité, it’s so much better than sipping a cocktail and grabbing the chips, the pretzels, and the heavier dips.

A: That makes a lot of sense. No ranch dip?

J: Do you know something, Adam? I have a fabulous ranch dip that is so light. Again, it’s all about Googling and finding ways to recreate all of the stuff that we love in a healthier manner.

A: Yeah, that’ll be awesome. I want to ask you about a myth that I’ve heard. There are athletes that say they actually find hydration from drinking a beer after a workout. Is that true? Is there any medical advice?

J: I wish I could say yes, but actually, that would truly be a myth. The reason being is that alcohol naturally dehydrates you. One of the reasons people wake up with a hangover after drinking too much is because you’re dehydrated and you’re depleted and you have low blood sugar as well. Alcohol would not be a great way to hydrate. Now, you could have a big glass of water and then a beer. That would work. I can support that, but not going straight for the booze.

A: Again, hydration is why we should be drinking water the entire time when we’re also having alcohol out with friends.

J: That’s right. It plays double duty. It hydrates you, but it also slows you down from drinking too much alcohol.

A: It makes perfect sense. Well, Joy, this has been really interesting to learn more about the world of nutrition and how we can think about creating balance when it comes to our summer months and drinking outdoors and things like that. Before I let you go, are there any other tips and knowledge you want to share?

J: I think you really covered it all. I am such a wine lover. I love to create all sorts of creative cocktails using fruit and lower-sugar add-ins. We have room, but you just want to be smart about it. You want to be selective, you want to enjoy it in moderation, and you just want to savor the flavor. When you sip, be cognizant of it and just relish the experience. That would be my advice.

A: Awesome. Joy. Thank you so much for joining me for this interview. It’s been really helpful for me to also think about my consumption habits and how I plan to adjust them for the summer months. Thank you, this has been great.

J: You got it. I hope next time we can get together over a cocktail!

A: That would be great. Take care.

J: Thanks. Bye, Adam.

Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, then please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.

Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and in Seattle, Wash., by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all this possible and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tasting director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.

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