Best booze, caloriewise: for weight management and nutritional value, which alcoholic drink should I order? … and more of your questions answered here – Weightloss Q & A
Q: If I’m trying to lose weight, which is the best choice of alcoholic beverage: hard liquor, wine or beer? Which has the most nutritional value?
A: Here’s how the calories break down, ounce-for-ounce, for a typical serving:
Hard liquor 64 calories per ounce; 90-100 calories for a 1.5-ounce serving
Wine (red or white) 25-35 calories per ounce; 100-140 calories for 4 ounces
Beer 10-12 calories per ounce; 120-145 calories for 12 ounces
Light beer About 8 calories per ounce; 95-100 calories for 12 ounces
“If you mix hard liquor with a noncaloric mixer, like scotch with water or rum with diet Coke, you’ll dilute the liquor [and the drink remains 90-100 calories],” says Audrey Cross, Ph.D., a nutrition professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., and an associate clinical professor of public health at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition in New York City. Another good choice is to mix yourself a wine spritzer, combining 2 ounces of wine with 2 ounces of soda water.
Whichever alcoholic beverage you choose, don’t drink on an empty stomach. Alcohol can stimulate your appetite, and is often consumed in settings where the food choices are high in calories and low in nutrients. “A lot of people go out after work and end up eating happy-hour food like nachos, spicy wings and potato skins,” Cross says.
Don’t look to alcoholic beverages of any kind for their nutritional value. Wine does contain small amounts of phytochemicals that have been associated with reducing risks of heart disease and certain cancers. However, Cross says, “you can get those phytochemicals elsewhere. Drinking red grape juice gives you the same benefit.”
Also, Cross points out, in countries such as France where wine consumption is higher than in the United States and heart-disease and cancer risks are lower, the difference isn’t simply the wine. “It’s the whole lifestyle,” Cross says. “People walk everywhere, and they eat smaller portions and more fruits and vegetables. The health effect of wine itself is overrated. Americans are always looking for a silver bullet, but you can’t just stuff down McDonald’s meals and drink wine and expect your disease risk to decrease.”
Q: If I eat a high-carbohydrate, lowfat diet, will the carbs eventually turn to fat in my system?
A: If you eat more carbohydrates — or any source of calories — than your body can use, the excess may be stored as fat, says nutritionist Cynthia Sass, M.A., R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association who is located in Tampa, Fla. However, you have to consume a very high percentage of your calories from carbohydrates for this to happen. If you get 55-60 percent of your calories from unrefined carbs — the amount that nutritionists generally recommend — you’re not likely to run into trouble, although the ideal percentage of carbs may vary from person to person.
While excess consumption is not a good idea, neither is it wise to avoid or significantly reduce carbs, as some high-protein diets advocate. Carbs are crucial for fueling your muscles as well as your brain. Aim to get most of your carbs from whole, unrefined foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and to minimize your consumption of refined grains and added sugar.
If too many of your calories come from refined carbs, you may experience mood and energy swings. Complex carbs take longer to be broken down in the digestive tract and absorbed into the bloodstream than do simple, refined carbs, so your blood-sugar levels remain more stable. Keep in mind that eating excess calories of any kind — whether carbs, fat or protein — will lead to weight gain.
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