The holiday season isn’t just a time where food abounds; it’s also a time where the liquor flows like water. Everywhere you look there’s fancy schmancy holiday cocktails – peppermint this or eggnog that – and while it all sounds delicious, having just one of these concoctions can easily put you over your calorie needs for the day. The good news is that it’s possible to indulge a little bit; you just have to know which drinks to choose and which ones to skip.
Alcohol and Weight Gain
Alcohol doesn’t make the cut on many weight loss diets and that’s for good reason. Each type of alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and in most cases, these are empty calories. This means that every time you throw one back, you’re racking up the calories without getting much else in terms of nutrients. Because alcohol doesn’t fill you up, you’re basically just adding extra calories to your day, which can translate to weight gain over time. A couple of regular beers can cost you 300 calories and a boatload of carbohydrates.
The other reason alcohol is prohibited from a lot of weight loss diets is because it lowers your inhibitions. You might go into the night with every intention of sticking to your diet plan, but after a glass or two of wine, you’re more likely to throw caution to the wind and reach for those appetizers or choose more “comforting” foods like pizza and pasta over a salad. There’s also a greater chance that you’ll be calling up that delivery guy at 2 AM.
Making the Right Choices
While we don’t condone overdoing it on the alcohol, indulging in a couple of cocktails here and there is almost an unavoidable part of the holiday season. The good news is that there are some “better” choices you can make and some tricks of the trade that you can follow so that you can enjoy yourself without seeing a huge difference on the scale.
- Skip the creamy concoctions. If something is creamy, thick, and smooth, there’s a good chance it’s loaded with calories and sugar. It’s not just the calories from the alcohol you’re getting, it’s extra calories from things like cream, chocolate, and eggnog.
- Be careful with mixed drinks. While you’re only getting about an ounce of alcohol in a mixed drink – which contributes about 70 calories – the fruit juice, soda, or simple syrup that it’s mixed with is loaded with calories and sugar. If you do prefer a mixed drink, ask for vodka and soda with just a splash of cranberry juice, plenty of ice, and a squeeze of fresh lime.
- Rethink the Beer. Beer isn’t the worst choice – especially on a holiday drink menu – but regular beers are loaded with carbohydrates and contain a decent amount of calories. Choose light beer instead.
- Go for wine or champagne. Wine and champagne are typically lower in calories than mixed drinks. They also tend to take longer to drink because you sip them slowly. Bonus points: dilute your wine with some sparkling water and make it a spritzer. You can double the drink for half the calories.
Now that you have a better idea of how to navigate the drink menu, there’s some other things you need to know about drinking while you’re on a weight loss diet.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Some people fall into the trap of thinking that if they skip dinner, the calories from the drinks they have won’t matter as much. Unfortunately, drinking on an empty stomach can have disastrous effects – you may end up drinking and eating more and you’ll likely feel the effects of the drinks faster. Instead, have a healthy, balanced meal before heading out to your cocktail party.
- Drink at a pace of no more than one drink per hour. This gives your body time to adjust to the alcohol and helps reduce the chance that you’ll end up drinking to excess.
- Alternate drinks. It’s easy to drink 2 to 3 cocktails when you’re spending an entire night at a holiday party. Save yourself some calories by alternating cocktails with water. Have an alcoholic beverage then sip on some water with a squeeze of fresh lime before ordering another. Make sure you drink at least one glass of water for every cocktail that you have.