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The Calorie Counter's Guide to Cocktails

Revelers beware: alcoholic beverages can seriously spoil your New Year's resolution to lose a few pounds.  Like it or not, alcohol contains calories. It’s important to consider how a few cocktails can significantly add to the numbers on your scale. But, you don’t have to give up your drink of choice completely. Keep reading for tips on how to choose wisely when it comes to happy hour, as well as tricks to avoid the negative effects (on your head and your waistline) of one too many.

Here are some things you may not have known about your favorite drink:

Calories, Calories, Calories
Beer contains as much as 200 calories per 12-oz can.  A four-ounce glass of wine can have as many calories as the highest-calorie beer (with wine it is important to remember that the driest wines tend to pack the least punch calorie-wise).  Then one must consider mixed drinks, which can be the worst of the bunch.  Though the calories in the actual alcohol of a mixed drink are comparable to the amount in wine and beer, the mixers can add a whopping 500 calories – or more.

Serving Sizes
In order to watch your calorie intake while imbibing, there are several factors of which you should be aware.  First, when it comes to hard liquor, higher proof equals more calories.  A second thing to keep in mind is that, with the exception of beverages that come in cans or bottles, serving sizes vary.  Four ounces is the "standard" serving of wine.  However, many wine glasses can hold significantly more than that.  In fact, a full wine glass could be providing you with twice as many calories as you think you are drinking.  Adding to the confusion is the propensity for bars to serve super-cocktails.  Regular size creations contain more than enough calories as it is, but their larger counterparts can contain over 1000 calories in one glass.

Have No Fear . . .
So, what is the savvy dieter to do?  The obvious choice is to avoid alcohol.  However, for many that takes some of the fun out of an evening on the town.  With that in mind, here are some tips to have your drink and diet too: 
  • Start your night with a tall glass of water: it will not only help to keep you hydrated, but will also keep you from being overly thirsty and drinking your alcohol too quickly.
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic:  by interspersing zero-calorie beverages with the alcohol, you will reduce your caloric and alcohol ingestion as well as the risk of a hangover.
  • Make calorie-smart choices: dry wine, light beer or cocktails with low-cal mixers will limit you to about 100 calories a drink (though remember the size issue).  Another option is to skip the mixer entirely and enjoy your liquor straight or on the rocks.
  • Cut down on the mixer: even by substituting half the mixer you normally use with sparkling or plain water, the calories can be significantly reduced.
  • Set limits before you go:  this goes for snacks as well as alcohol.  By eating a healthy low-cal snack before going out, you are less likely to munch while you drink.  And setting alcohol limits will not only help your diet, it also makes you less likely to end up with a headache the next morning.

Obviously there are a number of options that enable you to have a night on the town without derailing your diet.  Keep these ideas in mind the next time you go out and you will be able to have fun without worrying about how much you will have to exercise the next day to make up for it.

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