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Low-Calorie Drinking for Holiday Parties

From the Show: Eat Right Radio
Summary: As the holidays approach, parties become numerous, as does the challenge of keeping your commitment to healthful eating and drinking.
Air Date: 12/17/14
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Joy Dubost, PhD
Spokes-216x270-DubostWith more than 15 years of experience, Dr. Dubost has worked in the areas of clinical nutrition, research, public health intervention, education and communications. She owns Dubost Food & Nutrition Solutions, LLC., which specializes in scientific advising, education, and communications. Joy is a frequent speaker to health professionals and the public. She has authored research articles for scientific journals, and writes nutrition and food science articles for professional and consumer publications. Dr. Dubost is a national media spokesperson for the largest nutrition professional association in the U.S., the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is frequently quoted in local and national publications, including USA Today, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and NY Times and has made numerous radio and television
Low-Calorie Drinking for Holiday Parties
Festive drinks are as much a part of holiday fun and tradition as the delicious food, but the calories add up fast.

These healthy tips from registered dietitian, Joy Dubost, will allow you to enjoy the holiday cheer without weighing you down or increasing the numbers on the scale.

Melanie Cole (Host):  Festive drinks are as much a part of the holiday fun and tradition as the delicious food, but you know those calories really add up as you start adding in the alcoholic beverages. My guest today is Dr. Joy Dubost. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist. Welcome to the show, Dr. Dubost. Drinking – people don’t realize the calories that are added in when they start drinking a glass of wine or a margarita or something even more thick and frothy as the drinks add on. Tell us what we can do to make that holiday cheer just a little bit less damaging to our total caloric count at the end of the day. 

Dr. Joy Dubost (Guest):  Well, you are so right and I appreciate you bringing me on to talk about this topic because people really don’t think about calories from beverages in the same way that they think about calories from food, especially at a holiday party. You know, on average, alcoholic beverages are the sixth leading source of calories among Americans, and I would venture to say, even though I don’t necessarily have the research to support this, that most people bring up their level of drinking or drinking more frequently because there are so many best of parties going on at this time of year. It is something to be mindful of and there are ways to make sure that you’re not quickly adding up those calories which unfortunately can lead to the weight gain. 

Melanie:  Let’s start with some of the more innocuous ones, wine and beer. If we’re going to stick with wine, how many calories in a glass of wine. 

Dr. Dubost:  In 2010, a dietary guideline defined what a standard drink is. What they said is that a five-ounce glass of wine, notably five ounces—which many of us don’t always cap off at five ounces—that has about 12 percent alcoholic content, is about a hundred calories. Just keep that in mind that five ounces is about a hundred calories. The issue comes in is that the wine glasses, if you’ve noticed, have increased in size as well as if you’re out at social functions, you keep refilling that glass, and so soon, you just don’t realize how many calories you’ve actually consumed because it just, for one, goes down so quickly and, two, you just keep refilling. You have to keep in mind from that standpoint that you need to limit your drinks. 

Melanie:  What do you think, Dr. Dubost, about Skinnygirl and things of that nature that are supposed to be lower calorie fun drinks for us? 

Dr. Dubost:  I think they do have a place, particularly when you are at such parties and whether you go with the Skinnygirl cocktails, which do limit the caloric intake. Now again, if you’re going to continue to drink, those calories will still add up. Sometimes people think, “Well, I can have more because it’s limited in calories.” You can’t always go with that mindset because alcohol is still contributing calories. On average, it’s seven calories per gram of alcohol. Regardless, I think they do have their role, but you still have to be mindful of what you’re consuming and whether you go with something like Skinnygirl. There are other tips that you can incorporate into whether you’re planning a party and providing the alcoholic beverage or whether you’re out socializing at a restaurant or bar. There are ways to make sure that you stay in check with those calories. 

Melanie:  Give us some of your best tips to do that. 

Dr. Dubost:  Sure. For instance, when you’re… we already talked about the wine and making sure that you top it off and being mindful and knowing your limit with those type of alcoholic beverages, you could also do like a wine spritzer to help dilute, if you will, the calories because you’re combining it with a type of spritzer or carbonated water. The only thing I just want to mention is along the lines of beer—I’m a huge fan of beer. I’m actually a beer steward with the Master Brewers Association of America, so I enjoy my beer as much as anybody else—but on average, the alcoholic content for a 12-ounce beer is five percent, although most people consume about 4.2 percent because actually light beer, which is around 90 to 100 calories, is the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage, which I think is quite notable. You can see that people are trying to pay attention to their calories by drinking the light beer. Your average beer has about 150 calories.
There is one thing though with the beer. It’s that you’ll note the caloric content is pretty standard, although the beer calories can vary based on the alcoholic content, but most of the labels will list, particularly light beers, what the caloric content would be and you know that’s not a change because it’s not like the wine where you continue to refill the glass. You get one 12-ounce beer; you’re going to know your calories. It’s an easier way to track the calories with the beer, if you will, versus some other mixed drinks or even wine where the mixed drinks may have varying amounts of alcohol in it. Just that little tip on the beer side.

Melanie:  What about some of the mixed drinks? Some of those mixers are where the calories come in two-fold in margarita mix and all the sugar and all those. What do we do about those? 

Dr. Dubost:  Yeah, so the tips I would provide is really lighten it up. Mix your favorite spirit with either diet soda, diet tonic, or calorie-free seltzer. We talked about the caloric contents of beer and wine. With regard to any kind of liquor such as gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey, basically the definition of standard drink there is one-and-a-half ounce shot of an 80-proof liquor, which typically what you would get, is just under a hundred calories. If you take that and you combine that with any type of diet product or calorie-free seltzer, you’re going to limit your calories there. Again, that’s basically a one-and-a-half ounce shot. The key is that you must want to use the shot glass to measure it out. Another thing you can do is add flavor. A lot of these spirits come in a variety of flavors, so instead of thinking of using sugar-rich syrups, you can actually look for spirits that come in flavors like grape fruit or pomegranate with little calories and that will help lower the caloric intake because you’re not adding flavors from bottled juice or any kind of mixers.  

Melanie:  Speaking of juice, you know, that would seem to be sort of a healthy alternative. I don’t love the Skinnygirl just because I don’t like the additives and the artificial sweeteners and those kinds of things, but juices add a lot of calories, but yet they’re kind of a healthy alternative. 

Dr. Dubost:  That is true. That is definitely true and I think a hundred percent juice has a role in the diet. When it comes to things of this nature, when we’re talking about alcoholic contents, you’re getting calories from other sources and the point is try to lower your calories. I think in the case of this, you can do what I mentioned about looking for those flavored vodkas, tequilas, or rum. You can actually switch up the sugar. Agave nectar, for instance, when used in some of those mixers, is a bit sweeter, so you could use a little less of it. Although it’s still contributing the calories, but use a little bit less. The point is you want to try to lower the amount of calories coming in so that it’s not adding up the calories beyond what alcohol provides. 

Melanie:  I love agave nectar myself, too, Dr. Dubost, so that’s a great suggestion as well. What about things like eggnog? My goodness, you can just load up on that. It’s like eating your cake. 

Dr. Dubost:  It’s so true. In that case, that should be your dessert. If you’re going to go and have alcoholic drinks during these parties, you also have to monitor your food intake. If you’re going to have a sweet indulge in alcoholic beverage, that should be your dessert to help save on the calories and look for the lighter eggnogs because there’s quite a few good ones out there. 

Melanie:  I know Whole Foods does carry an organic, lighter eggnog. In just the last 30 seconds or so, Dr. Dubost, your best advice for lower calorie holiday drinking to enjoy our cheers. 

Dr. Dubost:  Watch your glass size, make a few tradeoffs, like skipping the appetizers or the desserts, and then just really mind how many portions of alcoholic beverages you have through the night. 

Melanie:  That’s great information. Enjoy your holiday cheer. Just watch what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You’re listening to Eat Right Radio with our good friends from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, you can go to That’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks for listening and stay well.