Holiday ‘spirits’ may cause scales to tip

During the holiday season, make sure that you don’t let too much holiday “spirit” cause weight gain. Whether the intentions are naughty or nice, holiday beverages could be a contributor of weight gain if consumption gets out of control.

The good news is that moderate amounts of alcohol do not seem to cause weight gain, as reported in recent studies. So, what exactly qualifies as moderate? For women, one alcoholic drink per day is considered moderate. Moderation for men is typically considered to be one to two alcoholic drinks per day. One drink equals a 12-ounce beer, 4 to 5 ounces of wine or champagne, or 1.5 ounces (one shot) of liquor.

When choosing your beverage at a holiday gathering, keep in mind that some types of alcohol contain more calories than others. Drinks containing liquors such as vodka, tequila, whiskey, scotch and rum, are going to contain quite a few calories. Just one shot (1.5 ounces) of liquor contains 100 calories, and if you ask for a double shot, you’re getting 200 calories - not counting the amount of calories that are in what the alcohol is mixed with.

A 12-ounce beer contains about 140 calories, but a better choice may be a light beer, which typically contains about 100 calories. Your best alcoholic choice is going to be wine or champagne. Four ounces of wine contains about 80 calories, and 4 ounces of champagne contains about 85 calories. Wine and champagne also are drinks that usually are sipped, which helps with moderation.

If you aren’t used to drinking alcohol, keep in mind that it also increases your appetite and gives you decreased awareness, therefore mindless eating tends to occur. Once you cross the line of moderation, there are several increased risks of health problems, such as cancer, liver disease, stomach ulcers and kidney problems, just to name a few. Memory defects and hormone fluctuations also become problems. If anyone has had surgery for weight loss, be aware of the potential heightened effects of alcohol compared to the effects before surgery. Keep in mind that alcohol also may interact with certain medications. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacy about the possibility of any interactions.

Not only are alcoholic beverages potential scale tippers, but also other nonalcoholic holiday favorites, such as eggnog, punch and hot chocolate could be calorie-laden as well, if not more so. One 4-ounce glass of eggnog is equivalent to 350 calories. Since most cups hold over 8 to 12 ounces, one can see the predicament.

A good alternative to reduce your calorie intake from beverages this holiday season is to cut the serving by half and add a lower-calorie beverage to it. For example, mix skim milk with ½ of the eggnog, or pour a smaller serving of wine and add club soda to make a wine spritzer. Replacing regular beverages with diet beverages in your mixed drinks and holiday punches will help as well. Most of all, remember moderation with any calorie containing drink if weight loss or maintenance is your goal this holiday season.

Heather Pierce is a registered dietitian for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

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