You can add fruits, vegetables and spices to your non-alcoholic drink to boost the nutritional content. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

It’s time to give mocktails their due.

Who can forget the Shirley Temple, a classic childhood mocktail?

Mocktails have become much more than just a child’s menu item. They’re a wonderful way for everyone to ring in the new year safely, with good health top of mind.

They’re especially helpful if your health or personal goals call for limiting—or altogether eliminating—consumption of alcohol this season.

Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day and men should have no more than two drinks per day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The downside of alcohol

It’s well known that excessive alcohol consumption can heighten your health risks.

Cocktails often contain added sugar and calories, too, from both alcohol and other ingredients.

When you consume alcoholic beverages, they produce a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and proteins. Acetaldehyde is a carcinogen.

Alcohol may also stress the liver and affect blood sugar levels.

Cholesterol and triglyceride levels also increase with excessive alcohol intake, which can cause heart trouble. It can also trigger malabsorption issues in the body, making it difficult for your body to absorb vitamins and minerals, leading to diarrhea and weight gain.

By reducing alcohol intake, you can promote good heart health and weight loss while also helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. You can also cut down on brain fog and improve sleep.

Triglyceride levels, cholesterol levels and blood pressure may all improve, too.

A nutrition tradition

Mocktails are also a terrific way to add more fruits or vegetables into your diet.

But not all mocktails are created equal. Many contain added sugar.

If you want to cut down on sugar, start your recipe with sparkling water, club soda, tea, coffee or fresh fruit juice.

Other ways to lower sugar content and up nutritional value:

  • Squeeze your own juice at home
  • Add seasonal produce such as cranberries or oranges
  • Make homemade syrups and add them for flavor
  • Use fresh herbs to jazz things up
  • Add kombucha, which helps feed good bacteria in the gut

Some popular cocktails transition perfectly to mocktails. The pina colada, for example, can easily become a mocktail by leaving out the rum.

A few recipe ideas:

  • Shirley Temple—Ginger ale, splash of grenadine, cherry garnish
  • Pina colada—Blend frozen pineapple with cream of coconut
  • Hibiscus tea (cooled)—Honey, lemon juice, splash of ginger beer
  • Warm apple cider—Apple cider (warmed), cinnamon stick, cloves, orange slices