Welcome to the mid-point of the Eat Fit Alcohol Free for 40 Challenge. We don’t know about you guys, but my co-challenger Ashley and I are in agreement that a global pandemic really adds an all new level of difficulty to the experience. Hold onto your hats, y’all. By now we’ve all probably seen the meme going around that says, “I didn’t plan on giving up this much for Lent.” Amen to that, fella.

The COVID-19 situation of course casts a somber shadow over everything, especially in New Orleans where we are more social than the average city and we have a tourist economy, which has been gravely impacted by public health and safety mandates and calls for us to stay home (which we absolutely should do). Our hearts go out to the overwhelming number businesses and individuals impacted by the crisis. Those who have it in their budget are taking advantage of take-out and delivery options being offered by many restaurants in the city and are buying gift certificates online for use at a later date to help support local businesses. However, everyone — especially those with a tight budget or who are experiencing coronavirus-related furloughs and layoffs — can make it a point get outdoors and find creative ways to socialize (from a safe distance, of course), beyond using Facetime and video conferencing.

One great idea is The NOLA Porch Project, which I read about on the Facebook page of event coordinating company, the Contessa & Co. The post says, “… head out to your porch, stoop, balcony, store front or front steps! Wave to your neighbors and say hi. If you play an instrument, do it on your porch or play a piano near an open window. If you sing, sing on your porch or near a window. Read your paper on the porch, have your coffee on your porch, eat lunch or dinner on your porch. This is the perfect weather for it. If you teach yoga or dance class head out to your porch and let your neighbors follow. There are some people that will have very little or no human contact during this time. Let’s head outside and celebrate each other from our porch.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Do you know what you can sip on while out there on your porch or stoop waving to and chatting with your neighbors from 6-to-10 feet away? Zero-proof cocktails! More on that in Reviews below, but Ashley and I talked about zero-proof cocktails, the challenge of being alcohol-free (especially in New Orleans) and helpful strategies in this week’s episode of the Eat Fit Fueled Wellness + Nutrition podcast with host Molly Kimball, RD, who is of course the founder of the Alcohol Free for 40 challenge. Give it a listen while you are at home social distancing.

Something that has helped me throughout the challenge, but especially the past week, is my meditation practice. As I mention in the podcast, I’m a long-time meditator and recommend it as a way to train your focus and help manage everyday life, but it can be a lifeline during times of stress. There are countless wonderful resources out there, including apps, so do your research and pick whatever speaks to you. Some of my favorites are Mindfulness, Insight Timer, Breathe and Calm. Each one offers a free version, which includes a lot of content for beginners and experienced meditators alike. Additionally, on March 17, Calm announced a free COVID-19-related resource page with meditations, music, sleep stories and masterclasses designed to support mental and emotional wellness. Be kind to yourselves.

Aff40 Podcast Promo Graphic


At a recent home happy hour, I tried Seedlip, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit. My pick was the Garden 108, which, according to the Seedlip website, is made with botanical distillates and extracts of peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary, thyme and hops. You can simply have an ounce or two with tonic water, but I riffed on the “Laxton’s Gage” recipe on the site, subbing simple syrup for the greengage (plum) preserves. I tasted the Seedlip straight beforehand. It is very “green” and herbaceous. Also, you know that sort of numb on the tongue feeling you get from gin? It somehow has that, despite having no alcohol in it. I enjoyed it and look forward to making more of the recipes on the site. I also want to try the other flavors. Two thumbs up! And yes, for those of you not taking the challenge, it would taste great with alcohol (vodka, gin or champagne). I ordered it online from Seedlip, but New Orleans locals can enjoy drinks made with it at the vegan restaurant Seed in the Lower Garden District, which as of Thursday, is open for delivery or pickup either through the website or by calling the restaurant. Verdict: Would drink again.

Also, now part of my daily non-alcoholic happy hour rotation is Ariel Dealcoholied Wine (say that three times fast). I grabbed a bottle of the Chardonnay at Martin Wine Cellar (offering curbside and delivery services during these all too weird times), which also carries the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay is extremely light and crisp. It is blessedly devoid of the unbearable sweetness found in many alcohol-free/alcohol-removed wines. (Fre brand, I’m looking at you.) Verdict: Would drink again.

That’s it for this week. Next week, Ashley will be back with updates reviews, recipes and more. Stay safe, healthy and alcohol-free, y’all. We are halfway there and we can do it … right?



If you want to take the challenge, go ahead and get started now — better late than never! It runs until Easter (April 12). Sign up for free on Ochsner’s #AlcoholFreeFor40 page. If you decide to participate, use the hashtag #AlcoholFreeFor40 and share your progress in the comments. For questions about the program, email Kimball at mkimball@ochsner.org or follow her on Twitter at @mollykimballrd.

Follow Melanie’s stone cold sober bon vivanting on Instagram at @melaniewarnerspencer.

Follow Ashley’s NOLA sober swizzle trip through mocktails and more at @taraashleymclellan on Instagram.