Whether you're popping open a champagne bottle at a party or cozying up with mugs of hot whiskey on the couch, it's important to be aware of the health effects of what you're drinking, experts say.
For New Year's toasters, when it comes to counting calories, champagne is actually one of the healthiest alcoholic drinks to have as long as you don't overdo it, said Ruth Frechman, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
“Champagne is just bubbly wine, 100 calories for 5 ounces,” said Frechman, a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. “It's not a bad drink.”
Here are three tips to make your celebratory sipping as healthy as possible:
1. Stop after one or two drinks.
The best way to be healthy when drinking on New Year's is to consume no more than a moderate amount of alcohol, Frechman said.
“One drink for women and two drinks for men — those would be moderate amounts,” she said.
Research has shown that a moderate amount of alcohol can be beneficial for heart health. A study published in November in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that alcohol helps to block the signals of molecules that can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
But although alcohol has its benefits, too much of it impairs the senses. A study published in September in the journal BMC Research Notes found that people over age 60 have trouble walking without tripping and falling after just two drinks. Furthermore, too much alcohol can lead to blood poisoning.
2. Remember that alcohol has calories.
“You don’t really think of alcohol as having calories, but it does, and it has lots,” Frechman said. It's also metabolized straight to fat, she said.
Alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram, just slightly fewer than fat, which has 9 calories per gram, she said.
And when you add alcohol to mixers such as juice or soda, you can double the number of calories in your drink.
“Eating a hamburger is like drinking a screwdriver, with the juice and the alcohol,” Frechman said. “A hundred and fifty calories come from juice, 100 come from the alcohol.”
In general, spirits such as vodka, whiskey and rum have about 100 calories per shot, Frechman said.
Four ounces (118 milliliters) of champagne has 96 calories, according to the Mayo Clinic.
At the other end of the calorie scale, an eight-ounce (237-milliliter) hot buttered rum has 292 calories, and an alcoholic eggnog of the same portion has 391 calories, according to the Mayo Clinic.
And whether it's cream or cream liqueur that you add to your coffee, creamy mixers will always pack more calories than juice or liquor, Frechman said.
“If you're making an Irish coffee and you're pouring in the cream, that can be 100 calories just from the cream,” which contains about 20 calories per tablespoon, she said. “And that's saturated fat — not the good kind of fat.”
Irish cream liqueur has 407 calories per 4 ounces, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Margaritas can run the gamut from 200 to 800 calories, depending on what fillers are included in the drink, Frechman said. And a martini can have 400 to 500 calories.
3. Consider using low-calorie mixers in your favorite drinks.
Although it may be hard to substitute low-cal options in your drinks if you're at a bar, it's easy to swap in ingredients if you're mixing drinks at home, Frechman said.
“If you're watching your calories, then you could have a small amount of wine, then fill it with club soda so it's like a wine spritzer,” Frechman suggested. “That would give you volume, but it wouldn’t be that many calories.”
And use diet soda instead of regular soda as a mixer, she said.
Drinking a rum and cola that uses diet cola, for instance, “really makes a difference,” Frechman said. “That saves you between 100 and 200 calories — there's a potential for saving 400 calories just from two drinks.”
Juices, while they have calories, may bring health benefits that sodas don’t, she added. Try mixing orange juice instead of a soda with your liquor to get some vitamin C, Frechman said. Or add diet cranberry juice and lime juice to some vodka for a low-calorie cosmo.
Pass it on: For a healthy New Year’s Eve, drink in moderation, keep in mind that alcohol has calories and consider substituting low-calorie mixers in your favorite drinks.
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