How can I cut down on alcohol?

  • If you drink, cutting back on alcohol will be good for your health and reduces your risk of 7 different types of cancer.
  • Making a few changes to your routine can make a big difference to how much you’re drinking.
  • The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. But the less you drink the better.

Did you know as many as 1 in 5 people in Great Britain don’t drink at all?

Cutting down on alcohol has lots of benefits, including reducing your risk of cancer.

If you think you might be drinking too much, you can talk to your doctor. You can also call Drinkline, the free national alcohol helpline, in complete confidence.

Whatever your drinking habits, drinking less alcohol will be good for your health.


Tips for cutting down on alcohol

  1. Keep track. Keep a record of how much you drink and see what helps you cut down. You could use the NHS Drink Free Days App, your phone, a calendar or a notebook.
  2. Drink-free days. Choose which days you won’t drink and stick to them. You could try new activities on those days instead. Or learn to make non-alcoholic mocktails.
  3. Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones. If you tend to have 3 or more drinks at one time, this can help slow you down. Try experimenting with fruit in your water or non-alcoholic versions of your usual drinks.  
  4. Don’t stock up on alcohol. Having alcohol at home may make it more likely that you’ll have a drink. Try only buying alcohol on the day you plan to drink it.
  5. Use smaller glasses. Even if they have the same amount of alcohol in them, small glasses can help people drink less. Or if you’re on a night out, make your ‘usual’ a small.
  6. Make booze cubes. If you are drinking wine at home, you don’t need to finish the bottle. Freeze leftover wine and use these ‘wine-cubes,’ in cooking. This can also save you opening a bottle then too.
  7. Don’t top-up. Continually topping up glasses makes it hard to keep track of how much alcohol you and your friends have had. Instead wait until glasses are empty before having another.
  8. Don’t buy rounds of drinks. If you’re drinking in a group, you don’t have to keep pace with everyone else. If everyone gets their own drinks it gives you more control over how much you’re drinking.
  9. Buddy up with a friend or family member. Not drinking when you’re with other people who are can be tricky, but it’s much easier if you’re not the only one!
  10. Be realistic and stick with it. The sooner you build changes into your life, the better for your health. But it can be difficult to make lots of changes at once. Try making one change, and when you feel confident make another. Small changes can add up to make a big difference to how much you drink.



How many calories are there in alcohol?

Alcoholic drinks contain more calories than we might realise. The calories can quickly add up, on top of calories in what we eat.

  • A large glass of white wine contains around 188 calories - or just over one and a half bags of crisps.
  • A pint of bitter contains around 170 calories - that’s more than a can of original coke.
  • Mulled wine is popular during the festive season, but the mix of alcohol and lots of sugar means a large glass contains around 388 calories - or nearly five chocolate digestives.

Cutting down on alcohol could help you keep a healthy weight. Read more tips on how to lose weight and be healthier.


NHS guidelines on drinking alcohol

The NHS guidelines say there is no safe level of drinking. They recommend:

  • Drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is the same for adults of all genders. Most alcoholic drinks contain more than one unit. You can find about more about the units in your drink below or use the NHS Drinks Free Days app.
  • Try to have several drink-free days each week.


Brown, K. F. et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to modifiable risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom in 2015. Br. J. Cancer 118, 1130–1141 (2018).

Department of Health. UK Chief Medical Officer’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines  (2016).

Lally, P. & Gardner, B. Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review 7, S137–S158 (2013). 

Office for National Statistics. Adult drinking habits in Great Britain: 2017 (2018).


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(AA) is a free self-help group.
If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).