Office parties, cookie swaps and other fun festivities offer plenty of tempting treats during the holiday season. It's easy to get carried away with eating and drinking when you're in a celebratory mood, but making mindful choices now is important to maintaining your health — especially when it comes to alcohol consumption. You can still enjoy a cranberry spritzer or a cup of your aunt's famous eggnog, but keep moderation in mind.
Many people drink with the mindset that liquid calories "don't count," but that couldn't be further from the truth. Alcoholic beverages vary in serving sizes, based on the alcohol content of the drink and the amount of carbohydrates (typically in the form of sugar) it contains. Examples of one serving are 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine and 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of distilled spirits. A serving of alcohol is 100 to 150 calories, but that doesn't include sugary or high-caloric ingredients that usually come with cocktails or festive drinks. For instance, a cup of eggnog, a candy cane martini or a glass of sangria can include 250 calories or more for just a single serving.
As you can see, holiday drinks can be a real hindrance when it comes to health and wellness. Here are a few tips to help you sip smarter during the holidays.
- Drink water between alcoholic drinks. Not only will this help keep you hydrated, but also it will help slow down your drinking and keep you comfortable in a social setting. (No one has to know it's not alcohol.)
- Use low-calorie mixers, such as no-calorie soda or tonic water or lemon and lime wedges, to help reduce added calories. You can also make healthier ingredient swaps without sacrificing flavor. For instance, use low-fat milk in your eggnog and cut the amount of cream in half — or skip it entirely.
- Practice moderation. Enjoy and savor your drinks by sipping slowly. Being mindful can help you reduce your overall calorie intake without feeling restricted.
- Keep the focus on family and friends and remember the reason for the gatherings: a time to celebrate with those you love.
Another thing to remember is that alcohol may increase appetite and lead to eating more. A little planning can go a long way when you're in the mood to munch. Fruit and veggies with dip are always good options to have on hand. Lightly buttered popcorn, nuts and whole-wheat crackers with cheese are also good snack staples.
Now you're ready to toast a healthy and bright year ahead. Cheers!
- Set realistic holiday goals. An all-or-nothing approach rarely works. Be honest with yourself and set a plan before an event where drinking might take place.
- Begin or continue to improve nutrition habits. Examples of easy wins during the holiday season are taking a walk after a meal, drinking plenty of water and practicing mindful eating and drinking.
- If you decide to indulge in an alcoholic beverage, do so in moderation. This means no more than one standard drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two standard drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.