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Alcohol

If you know me, you know that I love a glass of wine a few times a week, sitting outside and enjoying the evening, or having a relaxing time out with friends.  Some say alcohol is good for you, others say we ought to stay away from alcohol. I thought I’d give you the scoop today.

First of all, alcohol is metabolized differently than other foods and beverages. Under normal conditions, the body gets its energy from the calories in carbohydrates, fats and proteins that need to be slowly digested in the stomach—but not when alcohol is present. When alcohol is consumed, it gets special privileges and needs no digestion. The alcohol molecules diffuse through the stomach wall as soon as they arrive and can reach the brain and liver in minutes. This reaction is slightly slowed when there is food in your system, but as soon as the mixed contents enter the small intestine, the alcohol grabs first place and is absorbed quickly. The alcohol then arrives at the liver for processing. The liver places all of its attention on it and as a result, the carbohydrates (glucose) and dietary fats are just changed into body fat, waiting to be carried away for permanent fat storage in the body…OUCH!

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes water loss and dehydration. Along with this water loss we lose important minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. These minerals are vital to the maintenance of fluid balance, chemical reactions, and muscle contraction and relaxation… DOUBLE OUCH!

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and no nutritional value. OUCH AGAIN…

Alcohol affects your body in other ways, increasing the amount of acid that the stomach produces, lowering our inhibitions and producing a lot of other nasty side effects.

The list below breaks down the number of calories in typical alcoholic drinks. 

Drink

Serving Size

Calories

Red wine

5 oz.

100

White wine

5 oz.

100

Champagne

5 oz.

130

Light beer

12 oz.

105

Regular beer

12 oz.

140

Dark beer

12 oz.

170

Cosmopolitan

3 oz.

165

Martini

3 oz.

205

Long Island iced tea

8 oz.

400

Gin & Tonic

8 oz.

175

Rum & Soda

8 oz.

180

Margarita

8 oz.

200

Whiskey Sour

4 oz.

200

Now, having said all of that, I still love my glass of wine, and I really have no desire to give it up.  So if you are like me, here are six little sipping tips to help you stay healthy while drinking responibly-this last word being operative here!

1. Never come to happy hour hungry.

“Skipping lunch to compensate for the calories you plan to drink is not a good idea,” says Molly Gee, RD, weight-loss counselor and researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Alcohol does not satisfy hunger.”   Arrive with a growling belly and you may find yourself downing a few handfuls of bar nuts (about 600 calories), or worse, falling prey to the cheese-covered nachos—all yucky nonfoods.  Besides, drinking on an empty stomach enhances the negative effects of alcohol. Eat how you normally would during the day, work in some extra exercise, and munch a piece of fruit before you go to take the edge off.

2. Be mindful of mixers.
Hard liquor runs 100-200 calories per shot, but add a sugary or creamy mixer (nonfood filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup) and you’ll double or triple the calories.  If you are going to mix liquor with anything, opt for club soda, instead of fruit juice or regular soda.  Or, skip mixers altogether and sip a light beer (one-third the calories of regular) or a glass of red wine (just over 100 calories). Incidentally, light beers have always been low in carbs.  And red wine has a lower glycemic index than white wine.

3. Make the cocktail your dessert.
If you can’t resist a piña colada or daiquiri, drink seltzer during your cocktail hour and savor the mega-calorie libation instead of dessert.

4. Enjoy alcohol every other round.
Alternate each alcoholic beverage with seltzer or water. It’ll cut down on calories and help you keep count of how much you’re drinking. And because alcohol has a diuretic effect, the water will hydrate you. Or order a glass of water along with your cocktail. You’ll sip the hard stuff more slowly.

 

5. Focus on the conversation, not the cocktails.
When you find yourself alone at a fête, you may swig more swiftly out of anxiety or a need to look occupied. “Food and drink become substitutes for conversation; don’t fall into that trap,” says Gee. “If you don’t want to look like you’re standing there doing nothing, drink seltzer.”

6. Go for volume.
A platter of healthy food can satiate you more than a couple of high-fat morsels; it’s the same way with cocktails—remember the volumetrics principle? The taller the drink, the longer you’ll have it in your hand and hopefully drink a little less… Make it last by adding lots of ice!

Do you have any other tip to share? 

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