A glass of wine with a weekend dinner or a beer at the family barbecue doesn’t spell disaster for your weight-loss plan — unless you overdo it.
Reaching for another drink of alcohol on a regular basis can pile on the pounds, just as binging on cookies or chocolate might. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly two-thirds of all adults drink some amount of alcohol. The percentage of calories from alcohol in the typical daily diet ranges between 3 percent and 6 percent for men and 1 percent to 4 percent for women. That may not sound like a lot, but when you are watching your weight, every calorie counts.
Alcohol and Weight Gain: Do the Math
“Alcohol does add up in calories,” says Donna L. Weihofen, RD, MS, health nutritionist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “When I am trying to really watch my weight, I watch what I drink.”
Weihofen recalls giving up her signature drink, a Southern Comfort Old-Fashioned, for wine to cut calories, and then moving toward wine spritzers, a mix of wine and club soda, to cut the calories in half. Now she says she is often happy with a club soda and a twist of lime.
If you’re wondering how your favorite alcohol stacks up, check out the approximate numbers:
Stopping with just one drink keeps the calorie count down, but if you are drinking alcohol every night, you could easily put on at least a pound over the course of a month. It’s also important to remember that the total calories in your drink include any additions to the alcohol — the fruit juice, mix, or soda in your cocktail counts too!
Alcohol and Weight Gain: How to Cut Back on Calories
National dietary guidelines recommend women drink no more than one alcoholic drink a day and men no more than two. While some studies suggest that a glass of alcohol, such as red wine, may help your heart, recent data shows that the benefit may actually be reversed when you reach for a second glass — yet another reason to drink only in moderation.
One way to cut back on your alcohol intake may be to change the shape of the glasses you use. An interesting study of 198 college students and 86 bartenders demonstrated that, even when they had previously been shown the exact measure of a serving of alcohol, both groups tended to pour more into short, wide glasses than tall, thin glasses — even bartenders with more than six years of experience. So when you are planning to make yourself a special cocktail treat, you can maintain your diet by reaching for a tall, thin glass.
Here are some additional tips for enjoying alcohol without the weightgain:
With a little planning, you can enjoy your favorite alcoholic drink in moderation and avoid sabotaging your diet.