Healthy Lifestyle

What That New Year's Drink Means for Your Diet

Six things to think before you drink

Many of us like to cut loose and have a drink to toast in the new year. But when it comes to alcohol, there’s a lot you need to keep in mind to help keep your holiday diet on track.

  1. Beware the calorie count. Remember, alcohol has calories. A 12-ounce can or bottle of light beer, 5-ounce glass of red or white wine, and one shot of liquor all contain roughly 100 calories. But one study found that wine and liquor served at restaurants are about 40 percent larger than these standard drink portions. Wine is 4 ounces per serving, but those wine glasses are much bigger. Calorie content adds up pretty quickly. If weight management is a concern, you have to remember that alcohol is going to contribute to that.
  2. Slim down your drink order. Your drink selection can have a big impact on your overall calorie intake. If you are a beer drinker, you should know that low-carb beer contains about 3-4 grams of carbs, while the regular version has about 10 grams – the same amount as around 10 mini pretzels! Drinks made with mixers also pack on the sugar, which increases the calories. Just 4 ounces of a sweetened mixer has about as many carbs as 14 gummy bears! A decadent drink like a mudslide contains as many sugars, carbohydrates and calories as a slice of cake.
  3. Eat before you drink. When your stomach is empty, your body absorbs alcohol faster. Foods containing proteins and fats are absorbed slower, creating a buffer between your body and the booze. Nibble on nuts or veggies before you take your first drink. (You’ll also likely make smarter choices about the foods you eat when you are sober!)
  4. Slow down! This is a smart idea for so many reasons. Obviously, the more you drink, the more calories, carbs and alcohol you take in. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water can cut your consumption by as much as half. Something as simple as holding a glass of water may keep you from overdoing it when it comes to both food and drink.
  5. Prevent mindless munching. Party snacks, with the possible exception of the veggie tray, are often filled with calories. The more you drink, the easier it is to eat uninhibited. Put a little distance between you and the snacks. Research shows if those foods are right in front of you, you’re more likely to snack on them, even if you aren't hungry. Out of sight is often out of mind, especially when it comes to food, so try to stand away from the table with the party snacks.
  6. Volunteer to be the designated driver. The best way to stop yourself from overdrinking and derailing your diet is to avoid drinking altogether. While it may not be as fun as toasting in the new year with drink in hand, you (and your friends) will thank you in the morning.

A danger to your health?

Of course, there are lots of health-related reasons to cut down on the alcohol intake. Your body metabolizes alcohol differently than any other food or beverage. You do not need to be an alcoholic for alcohol to interfere with your health and life. If you’re on medication or simply don’t drink very often, make sure you check with your doctor to make sure it’s OK to consume.

Alcohol use can cause:

  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Slurred speech
  • Motor impairment
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Coma
  • Breathing problems
  • Death

Long-term alcohol consumption can also cause problems related to your brain, liver, heart, pancreas and immune system. It can put you at risk for certain cancers and cause fetal alcohol syndrome in the infant when consumed by pregnant women. There is no known safe level for alcohol consumption in pregnant and lactating women.

For more information about alcohol and its effects – both short- and long-term – contact your Methodist Physicians Clinic primary care provider.

About the Author

Martha Nepper, PhD, RDN, LMNT, CDE, is passionate about healthy eating and nutrition. Her favorite part of being a registered dietitian nutritionist is seeing someone become healthier through better nutrition and adding more activity in their lives.

See more articles from Martha Nepper, PhD, RDN, LMNT, CDE
Photo of Martha Nepper, PhD, RDN, LMNT, CDE