If you’re trying to diet, you might have heard that it’s a good idea to steer clear of alcoholic beverages. However, you may also have heard that the reasoning behind skipping drinks when you go out is that they’re more likely to encourage you to lower your inhibitions and lead you to indulge in foods you should be eating. You also may have heard that the sugar syrups in many drinks add extra calories, so you may be thinking that the drinks to avoid are really things like Mudslides or Long Island Iced Teas.
Although it’s true that sweet drinks pack hidden calories and bar food is more likely to be ordered after a couple of rounds, many people are surprised to learn that alcoholic beverages that seem light are actually to blame for the extra pounds packed on at the end of the month. The reality is that alcohol, even without the chocolate and flavored syrups, contains a surprisingly high amount of calories.
Consider this sample month of “social drinking” and the calories it contains:
(1) Happy hour after work = four vodka shots and one glass of cranberry juice. Straight shots seem fairly calorie free and fruit juice is supposed to be good for you, so vodka shots and cranberry juice have become to go-to option for many young women looking to establish a comfortable buzz on a night out. However, if you don’t indulge in more drinking or bar food, this vodka and cranberry combo is 626 calories…about as much as a meal in itself.
(2) Birthday dinner for your best friend = two margaritas. Social drinking for special occasions means that you’re more likely to indulge when you really shouldn’t. Even two margaritas, ordered in the spirit of the occasion (and because the restaurant you’re at has the BEST margaritas in town), are a bad idea. These drinks come in at 170 calories a piece, or 340 calories, which makes them better than vodka shots and cranberry juice, but much worse than drinking water with a spritz of lime.
(3) Football Sunday tailgate = 5 light beers. Football season spells trouble for social drinkers because the games last a long time and keep you too distracted to realize how many you’ve had. 5 beers over a three hour period is less than one beer for every half hour…not an unrealistic amount for most people. Unfortunately, even those light beers add up if you keep enjoying them and 5 beers at 110 calories a piece will set you back 550 calories.
(4) Date night = 2 glasses of red wine. Red wine has many health benefits. It has antioxidants that may prevent heart disease and a glass of red wine has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels significantly. So, it may seem like red wine is the best drink to indulge in if you’re going to drink socially. In fact, this may be true…but if you’re really watching your calories it’s good to remember that these glasses of wine aren’t diet freebies. Two glasses of red wine with dinner will set you back an extra 260 calories. It’s not a ton, but it’s as much as a couple of candy bars and it will definitely add up if you make it a nightly habit, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your wine intake.