Could Alcohol Be Your Weight Gain Culprit?

The holiday season is officially in high gear which means most of us will be raising our glass a time or two….or few. While most people are not alcoholics, excessive drinking is actually pretty common.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive drinking is defined as more than 7 drinks per week for women and more than 14 for men. These cut-offs aren’t arbitrary but rather are based on the point at which our risk for certain cancers, liver disease and heart disease starts to climb. Regardless of whether you are drinking excessively or occasionally, drinking can really pack on the calories and may be the unsung culprit of holiday weight gain. Check out these 15 tips for cutting back on alcohol calories this season (and all year round!).

1. Delay the Drink Order.  We usually order a drink the minute we show up to a restaurant or party, but delaying the onset of drinking can help reduce how much you drink. Ask the server to bring your drink with dinner or after you’ve eaten.

2. Water Log. Drink a full glass of water or seltzer (add lemon or lime!) in between alcoholic drinks to slow you down and fill you up. It may also increase your steps because you will undoubtedly need to make a few added trips to the potty!

3. Set A Limit. Decide in advance on a limit for how many drinks you can have on one occasion/night and stick to it. You might also consider deciding in advance on a limit for how many drinks you consume each week and keep track—this will help you space out your drinks across the week.

4. No Beer Goggles.  Drinking can also add calories by disinhibiting our good dietary intentions. Plan ahead what you will eat before the event in which you will be drinking, so that you don’t have beer goggles when gazing at the restaurant menu.

5. Wean Off. Subtract one drink from your usual weekly intake. Gradually work your way to below the threshold for excessive drinking.

6. Play Your Strengths. Switch to an alcoholic beverage that you tend to show better self-control. For example, if you never end up drinking more than one gin and soda, but can throw down 8 beers in no time, gin and soda might be the better choice.

7. Sophie’s Choice. If you typically have both drinks and dessert when you go to a restaurant or party, make a deal with yourself that you can have one or the other, but not both.

8. Rations. You can’t drink what you don’t have. Never buy more than 1 bottle of wine or 1 six-pack of beer each week. When you stock up you might be more likely to drink throughout the week.

9. Dilute Your Drinks. Using extra ice, water, or club soda, dilute your cocktail so that you have more to drink and it takes you longer to finish it.

10. Go Easy, Bartender.  Some bartenders are very generous with the pour but this does us more harm than good. Tell the bartender to limit the alcohol in your drink to 1 oz.

11. Tonic, Club Soda, What’s the Diff?  Big diff. Tonic has calories, 124 per can to be exact. Club soda does not.  Substitute club soda in that gin and tonic and you will cut the calories in half.

12. Liqueur vs Liquor.  Bailey’s Irish Cream may be a nice after dinner drink but it packs 124 calories per 1.5 oz! Try substituting liqueurs with liquor (e.g., scotch, vodka) to cut down on calories. If you can’t live without that Bailey’s, have half a serving and replace the other half with low-fat milk.

13. Sugar Bomb 1.  Soda and alcohol are both sources of empty calories, so mixing them makes for the ultimate empty calorie bomb combo.  Try using diet soda instead of regular soda, or have the bartender make a smaller drink that only includes a splash of soda so you have the flavor but in portion control.

14. Sugar Bomb 2. Bartenders often mix liquid sugar into cocktails to make them even tastier, but boy does this pack on the calories. Add-ins like simple syrup, sugar rim, or sour mix mean tons of sugar and calories. Ask if these are used in the drink and if so, tell the bartender to leave them out.

15. Sugar Bomb 3. Fruit juice is another common cocktail mixer that brings tons of sugar with it.  When mixing your own drinks, use muddled fresh fruit instead of juice (and add fresh herbs like basil or rosemary!).  When at the bar, avoid drinks with juices or ask that they only add a splash.  These days bartenders know what “make it skinny” means and so will go easy on sugary add-ins if you make this request.

Do you have other tricks for cutting back on drinks and drink calories? Share them in a comment!

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One Comment

  1. lisa says:

    Kombucha makes a nice alcohol substitute. It can be brewed at home pretty easily and for pennies per serving, it has about 30 calories per 8-oz serving, and it contains probiotics and vitamins. Also great as a mixer. Try a kombucheria – half wine and half kombucha!

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