How to drink alcohol while dieting


Here's a good reason to go easy on the alcohol at a party: Some drinks contain up to 1,000 calories! Dietitian Elizabeth Somer offers some tips on how to have fun and stick to your diet at the same time.

How to drink alcohol while dieting
  • Most people aren't aware of how many calories alcoholic drinks may contain: for example a large Long Island iced tea can be 1000 calories: more than a platter of fried onion rings.
  • There can be 200 to 300 calories in a margerita or a cosmopolitan.
  • A glass of red or white wine is better: about 100 to 120 calories a glass.
  • Between drinks, have a glass of water or diet cola, to prevent getting drunk (which can make you forget your diet altogether) and to spread out the calories.
  • During the holidays, there are more parties, and people drink more. Be picky about the drinks you consume instead of accepting all that is offered.
  • Dilute your drink with ice or water to cut down on calories.
  • If you have a gin and tonic, ask for calorie-free tonic.

LISA: Hi I'm Lisa Birnbach for wondering how much drinking we can do over the holidays. I just don't know, but luckily Elizabeth Somer knows, she's a dietician and author. Elizabeth there's so much alcohol around during the holidays and you want to be in a festive mood sometimes, you definetely, not just sometimes, you often want to abibe.

ELIZABETH: Yes, don't you dare take away my red wine! I get feisty if you do. No, of course, alcohol can be part of the festivities, but I think that sometimes people aren't aware of how many calories are in some of those drinks.

LISA: I'm not aware.

ELIZABETH: I know they can be quite surprising. Not the not so traditional drinks, but the ones that are popular these days like the apple martinis and the cosmopolitans and the Long Island ice teas, for instance. You know a large Long Island ice tea can have up to one thousand calories in it. That's more calories than you'd get in a platter of french fried onion rings. So we're talking--

LISA: That's a shocker.

ELIZABETH: I know it is a shocker. You know there can be 200 to 300 calories in a margerita or a cosmopolitan.

LISA: You're talking about sweet drinks, or you just were now, what about a glass of red wine, a glass of white wine?

ELIZABETH: Much better. About 100 to 120 calories a glass--well I guess it depends on how big the glass is, but if it's a regular 5 ounce glass of wine it's about 100 to 120 calories in that. Certainly a much better option, but they can still add up of course. One idea is to have your red wine or your white wine, but intersperse it every other drink with a glass of ice water or sparkling water or diet cola or something like that so that 1) you don't get too drunk at the party and 2) so that you sort of spread those calories out a little bit.

LISA: Why do you think people drink so much during the holidays. Is it anxiety?

ELIZABETH: Oh it's lots of stuff. It's--we're in a festive mood! That's part of it and it's the holidays and there's just a lot more opportunity, a lot more party-going. I know I go to a lot more parties in December than I go all year round the rest of the year. It's just there. And part of it is sometimes you're a little nervous and it's a way to sort of calm yourself down and there's nothing wrong with having a cosmopolitan either even, just don't have two or three of them. Or a lemon drop or even some of those other drinks. Egg nogs can have 200-300 calories, hot buttered rum can have up to 400 calories. So just be--if you're having one, not several and then focus on the less calorific drinks elsewhere.

LISA: Now some parties actually plan drink agendas, right? If you're at a dinnner party, there may be certain cocktails during the cocktail time and then maybe they serve white wine with certain course, maybe they serve red wine with certain courses, and an after-dinner drink or a sweet wine. Sometimes you feel like you're not being a good guest if you don't try what they're serving you.

ELIZABETH: Well then what you need to do is defend your food and drink turf a little bit better. You don't have to have everything that crosses your plate. You know maybe if you anticipate a problem or a situation like that, then decide ahead, well I really like the before dinner drink, it loosens me up, but I don't need to be slugging down several glasses of wine through dinner. Maybe I'll just limit myself to one, you know, maybe have some guidelines there.

LISA: What about diluting the drinks so that they're not as potent or not as calorific?

ELIZABETH: Sure, you can do that. Or you have some alternatives, you know, maybe if it's an open bar kind of thing, you were thinking about having something like say a margerita. Have a mojito instead; it has significantly fewer calories. If you're going to have an alcoholic beverage have like a gin and tonic, but have it with a calorie-free tonic.

LISA: Do they make that?

ELIZABETH: Yes, you can cut your calories a lot doing that to less than a hundred calories. Or dilute them, you know, put a lot of ice in the glass so that you still have something to do with your hands--you've got that up to your mouth thing, but you're consuming fewer calories.

LISA: Now, in terms of holiday drinking, is there a way to reduce the effects of the alcohol. You've done your best, you've tried to drink some water between the alcohol. But is there a way to get less hungover based on how you drink?

ELIZABETH: Well, if you eat of course, that will help to soak it up a little bit, but there's a lot of myths there too, like have a cup of coffee and that will sober you up.

LISA: Oh yeah that doesn't work?

ELIZABETH: No, no that just makes you a wide awake drunk. Really the best thing to do is to gage it so you're not slugging them down, several drinks in an hour, but rather sort of spreading it out a little bit. And of course if you don't follow that rule, make sure somebody else is driving you home.

LISA: Thank you so much.

ELIZABETH: You are so welcome.

LISA: For howdini I'm Lisa Birnbach.


meet theexpert
  • Elizabeth Somer

    Elizabeth Somer Registered Dietician and Author Elizabeth Somer is a Registered Dietician and author of several books, including Age-Proof Your Body and Food & Mood. She is Editor-in-Chief of Nutrition Alert, a newsletter summarizing the current research from more than 6,000 journals. more about this expert »

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