The Best and Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Your Waistline

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

alcoholic drinks

By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN. Originally published by US News & World Report

The holidays are a time when cocktails are flowing. Downing two or three drinks (or more!) at a party can mean you’re taking in an excess of 1,000 calories – not counting the food or dessert, which can be an additional 1,000 calories. If you start consuming over 2,000 calories at each holiday party, those pounds will start piling up. Instead of busting your pants button, use these tips to help keep those liquid calories under control.

How much is too much?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women should consume no more than one drink per day and men should consume no more than two drinks per day – if they choose to drink at all. One drink is 12 fluid ounces of beer, 1.5 fluid ounces of an 80-proof spirit (such as rum or vodka) or 5 fluid ounces of wine. Each serving runs around 100 to 150 calories. (And no, you cannot “save” liquid calories for one big party night.)

Studies show that alcohol in moderation has its benefits. Drinking by the guidelines may help lower the risk of heart disease, and red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which has been shown to help protect the heart. Conversely, drinking too much has its downfalls. Excess alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and certain cancers within your gastrointestinal tract.

To keep liquid calories in check, it’s sometimes easiest to stick to drinks that don’t add additional calories, such as beer or wine. Cocktails, on the other hand, can be all over the map. If a bartender overpours servings, it can add hundreds of extra calories. Here are some of the better and worst cocktail choices:

  • Worst: margarita. Tons of sugar and a heavy dose of alcohol can bring the calorie count in this favorite above 600 per serving.
  • Best: mulled wine. Apple cider, wine and lots of low-calorie herbs and spices help create a delicious, low-calorie hot toddy. The sugar, however, should be kept to about 1 to 2 teaspoons per serving.
  • Worst: White Russian. Vodka mixed with heavy cream and coffee-flavored liqueur makes a might tasty cocktail, but oftentimes, this baby is served in an oversized glass, making the calories climb to close to 500 per serving.
  • Best: sangria. Wine mixed with fresh fruits makes for a delicious cocktail high in antioxidants. Just make sure to consume no more than 1 or 2 glasses.
  • Worst: spiked eggnog. This holiday favorite made from eggs, sugar and cream – plus alcohol – can rack up around 450 calories per serving.
  • Best: champagne cocktail. Many combos of fruit and champagne can keep calories in check, thanks to the champagne glass, which only holds 6 fluid ounces. Ordering a champagne drink is a perfect way to adhere to portion control.

It’s not just what you order, but how you order and consume it that matters when trying to keep alcohol calories at bay. Here are a few easy tricks to keep in mind at your next fiesta:

  • Scout the bar. Before ordering anything, see what’s complimentary and what costs a pretty penny. If you’re watching your cash flow, a house wine may be your best bet.
  • Eat first. Make sure you have eaten something before drinking alcohol. If you don’t, you may feel tipsy more quickly and be less likely to make healthy decisions as the night goes on.
  • Rotate between alcohol and water. Instead of downing drink after drink, take a break in between and sip a glass of water. This will help slow your pace.
  • Ask for smaller glasses. You just can’t get as many calories in a smaller glass than a larger one.
  • Ask for your drink on the rocks. The non-caloric ice leaves less room for alcohol calories.
  • Prevent overpouring. Ask the bartender to use a jigger to measure out the alcohol properly and prevent overpouring (and any unwanted calories).
  • Sip, don’t guzzle. Enjoy your drink of choice slowly while engaging in conversation with family or friends. The holidays are all about togetherness and catching up – so make sure to do so.
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