With the start of the holiday season comes the start of family outings and holiday parties. Often, social events include the consumption of food and alcoholic beverages. Being a nutrition and dietetics student, I am often approached with the following questions. Which alcoholic drink is better for you? Which drink will offer me the least number of calories? Which one is a healthier option?
To answer those questions, it is important to cycle back and reiterate what a calorie means. In our society, a calorie is associated with gaining weight. However, the real definition of a calorie is defined as a unit of energy. With every gram of alcohol, the body is supplied with an additional 7 calories per gram. Essentially, it’s a lot of energy given to the body.
So, if alcoholic drinks, obviously, contain alcohol, what is the difference between light and regular beer (or light drinks compared to regular alcoholic drinks)?
Light beer consists of less alcohol as opposed to regular beer. The same goes for light alcoholic drinks. Since alcohol contains high number of calories, decreasing the amount within drinks decreases the calories. With a decrease in calories, many people think that they can drink more. With less alcohol many find themselves, having to drink more to unwind and relax. The cycle continues with many consuming more calories than they initially planned too.
Within the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, they advise those of legal drinking age to limit consumption of alcohol to about one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. This guideline is supported by evidence that shows that anything more than moderate drinking places an individual at risk for high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis, and other forms of cancer. For some, drinking alcohol may not even may an option, due to history of addiction or other health issues.
On the other hand, research has shown that moderate drinking along with healthy eating habits and regular physical activity, may provide health benefits of lowering the risk of heart disease within middle age and older adults. Therefore, moderation is key.
It’s important to know your limits and respect your body. If you are thirsty, maybe start with a nonalcoholic drink to quench your thirst instead of an alcoholic beverage. Hydration is important, not only for survival, but also for the metabolism of alcohol. Also, eating or having a full stomach helps slow the metabolism of alcohol, allowing you to enjoy yourself without the hassle of becoming sick.
Overall, it is all about moderation. Knowing your limits and being safe within the process, will result in a happy and fun holiday season.