Drinking and Holiday Cheer?

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It is a question I hear all the time: ‘Can I still have a glass or two of wine with dinner and lose weight?’ Or ‘It’s the holiday season and I want to enjoy a few cocktails at parties but will this put weight on me?’

First of all, there is absolutely nothing unhealthy about drinking in moderation. It is heavy drinking that is a problem and can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, certain cancers, accidents, violence, suicides, birth defects and even death. If alcoholism runs in your family or you are predisposed to addictive behaviors, you may want to abstain from alcohol all together. Too much alcohol over time has dire physical consequences. It can cause cirrhosis of the liver, inflammation of the pancreas and damage to the brain and heart.

But before you lock the liquor cabinet or pass on a glass of wine, studies have shown moderate drinkers to be healthier than tee-totalers or heavy drinkers. One or two drinks a day actually protect one’s health. (Note, the operative words: one or two.) What constitutes moderate drinking? One drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men.

So if you enjoy a good red or white wine with dinner or a few cocktails in the evening or maybe just weekends, consider the numbers. Pop the top and a five-ounce glass of wine has 100 calories. It is fat-free going in but once metabolized by the liver it is the equivalent of five to seven grams of fat. Drink two glasses of wine every day and you could easily gain 20 pounds in a year.

No matter how you pour it, alcohol is concentrated in calories and has very little nutritional value. But if you want to include your favorite drink in your weight-loss plan, follow these “drinking” tips:

Just have one drink.
Alternate low calorie seltzers or juices.
Avoid salty snacks (they make you thirsty).
Eat nutritious meals, especially before drinking.
Don’t substitute alcohol for the healthy foods you need.
Cut your carbs like rice, potatoes, bread and pasta in the evening.
Don’t drink everyday.

Most alcoholic beverages are labeled for nutritional value so you can see the calories as you’re guzzling. For clarification, beer averages 150 calories per 12 ounces.

“Light” beers are significantly lower in calories, 70-140 per 12 ounces. Liquor averages 100 calories per 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Stir in 4 ounces of mixer and you add:

Tomato Juice: 21 calories
Grapefruit Juice: 51 calories
Orange Juice: 56 calories
Cranberry Juice: 74 calories
Pineapple Juice: 65 calories

Wine, no matter what color, is approximately 100 calories for five ounces.

Happy holidays and cheers!