Smart Drinking For the Holidays

This is a guest page by Joe Bauers.

In a similar theme as an earlier guest post, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about the holidays and how they can affect your diet. Specifically, how smart alcohol choices can reduce your overall calorie intake, which, along with exercise, will determine your level of success.

When it comes to alcohol, there are a number of reasons why people tend to drink more around the holidays:

  • A more active social schedule with an increase in cocktail parties and work functions
  • Numerous large, family-style dinners and in many cases, a week off between Christmas and the New Year
  • An attitude that some have to “let myself go” and then get back on track with the help of a New Year’s Resolution

So, I won’t judge or give the simple, yet obvious, advice to drink less, there is a smart way to drink and minimize the impact on your waistline. If you’re having just one beer or one glass of wine, it’s not a going to make much difference, but if you’re planning to indulge a bit more than that, it can really pay to know what you’re doing.


Domestic light varieties of beer are lowest in terms of calories and calories per unit of alcohol. The latter is important because it sort of refutes the argument that if you have to drink nearly 7 Miller Lites (6.7 to be exact) to get the same effect (buzz) as 5 Sierra Nevada Pale Ales, the calories cancel out. They don’t. In fact, 7 Miller Lites have more alcohol, but more than 200 calories less than the Sierra Nevada. Stronger, hoppier beers have high ABV and are high in calories and calories per unit of alcohol.

The main benefit to this type of beer is that it can more satisfying to drink slowly and thus drink much less in total volume. Guinness is another interesting choice because at 125 calories per 12 ounces, it is fairly filling, but be warned, it’s very low in alcohol content.

Conclusion: If you’re going to be drinking a decent quantity of beer, stick to domestic lights. Miller Lite and Michelob Ultra are the best of commonly available brands.


Most common wine varieties, such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot grigio, and chardonnay, are very good choices in terms of calories per unit of alcohol – all better than the any beer. Try to steer clear of anything labeled “sweet,” as well as dessert wines like Port. The majority of champagne sold is Brut, measure of sugar content, and is a fairly good choice.


Finally, liquor is the absolute best choice for those indulging a little extra around the holidays. Use a diet mixer, such as Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, or club soda as a mixer and feel free to liberally use lemons and limes. Fruit juices, tonic water and non-diet sodas are really bad choices, adding empty sugar calories. For example, switching from tonic to club soda can save anywhere from 50-80 calories per drink. There’s almost always an available substitute, so there’s no excuse to not use a caloric mixer.


The final point to note is that liqueurs can be loaded with sugar. Some examples are: Amaretto, Bailey’s, Chambord, Kahlua, Sambuca and Triple-Sec.

So, here’s a recap in order of best to worst drink choices:

  1. Liquor (straight or diet mixer)
  2. Wine
  3. Champagne (Brut)
  4. Light Beer
  5. Dessert Wine
  6. Regular Beer
  7. Liquor (non-diet mixer)
  8. Liqueur

Happy Holidays and good luck with your goals!

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