When the diet started, it was “goodbye” to fatty cheeseburgers. Donuts and ice cream made the list, too. And, of course, exercise is just part of the daily routine now.
But what about booze?
Understanding the why
Reconciling booze and a diet isn’t limited to the fact that having a drink is tasty and fun, and thus something you don’t want to scrap. No, calories from alcohol are actually worse than calories from elsewhere.
Marsha Miller, a dietitian at University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, said that’s because the body views alcohol as a poison, so it tries to metabolize the alcohol first, before any other foods.
“The easiest way to rack up calories is with alcohol, because it adds up pretty quickly,” she says.
Every drink — be it a glass of wine, a pint of beer or a shot of booze — packs about 100 to 120 calories, Miller said.
So, three shots, packs about as many calories as a sundae from McDonald’s.
What to avoid
It isn’t just the calories in alcohol that can really set back a diet, either. Those tasty mixers — think popular sodas and sugar-packed juices — come with plenty of calories. Heavier, more flavorful beers are also heavy on calories.
“The killers are the mixers,” Miller says.
Pre-packaged drinks have exploded in popularity in recent years, but Miller says they are often a bad choice. While the calorie count is listed clearly on the side, Miller says the high sugar content in those drinks means they are rarely the right choice.
And dieters should treat cocktails as one of their indulgences. That means if you already splurged on a big dinner, or ordered dessert, avoid the cocktail.
Some good ideas
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good options out there. Light beer comes with a manageable calorie count, as does a glass of wine.
Miller recommends if you want a mixed drink, be sure you choose the mixer wisely. Soda water is a great no-calorie option, she said, and a lime wedge or splash of cranberry juice can add a lot of flavor.
Most importantly, limit the number of drinks to two or three. Miller says a great way to do that is to drink a big glass of water after the first cocktail and wait before having another — if you feel like another.