The 2017 Health and Wellness Trends Bartenders Should Know

A person in lotus pose.
Yoga and meditation are among the most applicable health trends for bartenders. As both become increasingly mainstream, it's easier than ever to incorporate them into even the most hectic of schedules. (Photo: PeopleImages/iStock)

The way we think about health as a society is changing. Consumers are becoming less interested in convenience and comfort and more drawn to what nourishes and strengthens their bodies. It’s no different in the bar world, yet bartenders are up against particularly challenging odds. Between the hours, the physical rigor and the endless stream of booze on hand, it can be hard to prioritize health.

Holistic health coach Michelle Lewis knows this firsthand. Before studying to become a certified health coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), Lewis began her career in the service industry, working as a bartender and later managing events for Budweiser and Bacardi. In her studies, she realized she could merge her passion for the industry with her passion for good health.

“As a society, we are seeing a mindset shift on how our lifestyles, i.e. what we do for a living, impact our overall health,” Lewis says. “Unlike other careers, a career in the bar industry is both physically and mentally demanding on many levels. I believe the bar industry has a lot to gain from the wellness trends we are seeing.”

She makes an important distinction: staying healthy isn’t just about preventing doctors bills or looking fit, “it's also about improving performance and keeping a state of passion, happiness and appreciation for what you do.”

Lewis believes healthy practices are possible for bartenders, despite the unique challenges they face. And even more so, she believes forthcoming health trends will be particularly accessible and helpful to bartenders.

Yoga and meditation

Among the most positive trends for bartenders: yoga and meditation. Both practices are productive for mental and physical health, and both can be free (or close to it).

“Yoga aides in preventing long-term injuries, such as tendinitis, arthritis and muscle/joint tension. Additionally, because the bar can be chaotic, yoga helps to wind down after shifts to ensure better sleeping habits. Meditation restores energy, improves creativity and provides a more optimistic outlook,” she says. “What bartender doesn't want to improve their capacity to be more creative, have more energy and be increasingly agile behind the bar?”

Low- to no-ABV drinks and "healthy-ish" cocktails

But bartenders shouldn’t keep an eye on health trends just for their own sake — they should also be aware of changing consumer expectations. These days imbibers prioritize quality and are more concerned with the impact of what they’re drinking takes on their bodies. For that reason, there’s a marked rise in ingredients like vegan aquafaba and a proliferation of low ABV and non-alcoholic drinks.

Wellness-focused social events and pop-ups

“Last year marked the first real growth in events called 'sober outings.' Happenings like these are getting easier to find. In New York, a new pop-up party, called The Softer Image, combines herbal tonics, dancing and energy healing. In Los Angeles, dry dinner parties and yoga-fueled DJ events are providing social alternatives to the bar scene. In 2015, Atera in New York developed what they call a 'temperance pairing' which focuses on virgin libations based on classic cocktails ... I honestly don't think this is something to be apprehensive of. In fact, it's quite the opposite, this revolution is opening up the door to create an inclusive social atmosphere,” says Lewis.

Health goes high tech

Though these social outings may seem like fodder for satire, there are more practical applications of the virtues they affirm. There are innumerable meditation apps, for example (and no shortage of data to demonstrate their impact).

And as technology evolves alongside people’s perceptions of health, even nutrition plans are getting high tech and personalized. This may come as a huge relief for bartenders who don’t always operate in the same hours as nutritionists. “Companies like Habit, GenoVive, DNAfit and DayTwo are using genetic insights, analyzing biomarkers, gut flora (intestinal microbiome) and DNA testing to determine an individual's diet. Most of these companies also offer meal delivery and exercise plans based on individual results. This takes the relationship with health to a whole new level. This provides a streamlined routine based on the individual makeup of your body. For those who crave structure and simplicity, this will be the revolution they've been seeking.”

"Clean eating" gets more accessible

Health solutions aren’t just becoming more accessible thanks to technology, they’re also becoming incredibly cheap. This is great news for bartenders whose sometimes sporadic income can be a hindrance to accessing health resources. Lewis cites even more affordable foods made with more natural ingredients and “cleaner labels” are becoming commonplace. “Even Walmart started a huge overhaul of their Great Value brand to reduce sugar and sodium across the board. Now these companies are finding creative ways to invest in quality ingredients while keeping the price point affordable and making wellness more accessible. Companies like Whole Foods '365' and Target's 'Made to Matter' brands are examples of large corporations answering the consumer's call.”

Anti-inflammatory: the new buzzword

And as ingredients go, Lewis anticipates we’ll see more buzz around the concept of anti-inflammatory foods. “Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, while heart disease is inflammation of the arteries. These are just two examples of diseases that can be related to chronic inflammation in the body. Instead of taking a medication to reduce joint pain or lower cholesterol, we would be better served by reducing inflammation in the body.”

An anti-inflammatory diet calls for avoiding corn and soybean oils, refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, trans fats and red meats. It also involves eating a high fiber diet comprised of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as foods that are high in omega-3s like fish and flax and nuts, avocados and olive oil monounsaturated fats. Lucky for those who love spicy foods, when you’re going for an anti-inflammatory diet, the hotter the better. The drink Lewis hopes to see come from the anti-inflammatory movement? Golden Lattes, which bring together turmeric, ginger, non-dairy milk and spices. “I personally have my fingers crossed that we see Golden Lattes at coffee houses like we did with the Bulletproof coffee boom,” she says.

Maca: the new superfood?

Similarly, Lewis says to look for a surge in popularity of maca root powder. The powder is “rich in vitamin A, C and E, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and amino acids, [and] promotes hormone balance and sexual function (libido) in both men and women. Maca root is an adaptogen and a member of the cruciferous family (think cauliflower and broccoli). Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants: They help balance, restore and protect the body.” For those forging the “healthy” cocktail frontier, try experimenting with maca root powder.

Small habits add up to big changes

And although health trends come and go, there are a few old standbys that Lewis advocates as a must. Namely: drink enough water, get sufficient sleep and eat more fruits and vegetables. She also preaches the necessity of stretching before and after shifts to prevent injuries and stay nimble.

If you’re looking to make healthy changes to your lifestyle, start by changing one to two habits at a time so as not to get overwhelmed. Be gracious and patient with yourself — it takes time and effort to find what sticks, but it will be worthwhile when you begin seeing and feeling results.

“Once you start to feel the difference that incorporating these lifestyle changes make, you will want to chase that feeling,” Lewis says. “It comes down to a basic intuition of what your body needs to thrive, which will help to balance the physical and mental demands of your career. If you start to tap into that awareness and allow it to grow, it will be that much easier to incorporate and maintain healthy habits that work for you.”

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