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How to: Drinking on a diet

Philly Dietitian - Blog

A blog by Philadelphia based dietitian, Theresa Shank RD LDN, who provides nutritional counseling and diet planning to get you eating, feeling, and looking your best today! 

How to: Drinking on a diet

Theresa Shank

The summer heat has arrived and with the change of temperature comes invites to barbecues, weddings, outside happy hours or late nights spent at the jersey shore. All of these situations can create a real love/hate relationship with your weight loss efforts.

Lets face it, sipping cool adult beverages to beat the summer’s heat is refreshing in the moment, but in the long run, it’s a habit that can place you on the fast track to weight gain.

As a dietitian, I am often asked “can I drink alcohol while I am trying to lose weight?” I always tell my clients that alcohol can fit into a healthy routine if limited appropriately and chosen wisely. Try these few tips to help you stay on track with your weight loss goals and still enjoy summer festivities.

Pick a few days per week when you will avoid alcohol

I tend to ask clients to pick at least four days out of the week to avoid alcohol. A simple way to follow this recommendation is to say no to drinking Monday through Thursday. If your work or social life during the week makes this difficult for you, then assign random days to stay alcohol free; such as Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Plan ahead to account for calories on the days you do drink

Try to eat extra healthy the day of a party or office happy hour. Avoid sweets, refined carbohydrates or high-calorie foods (i.e. fried options) and replace them with lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy or fruits/vegetables prior to your event. Another option to offset calories consumed by alcohol is to schedule an extra hard workout on the day of.

Know your serving sizes

In order to lose one pound per week, you must reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day or burn 500 calories per day from exercise to total 3,500 calories (one pound). Here are some common calorie counts to keep in mind: 

  • 5 ounce glass of wine = 120 calories
  • 12 ounce light beer = 110 calories
  • 1.5 oz liquor =100 calories

The key here is to not drink away all your hard work in one evening. For example, enjoying 3 glasses of wine, plus one shot will place you close to your daily 500 calorie deficit that is needed to lose one pound per week. 

Keep it simple

Avoid bottled margaritas or daiquiri mixes. These mixes can contain upwards of 25-35 grams of sugar per 4 ounce serving. If you are at home enjoying a cocktail, try combining vodka with club soda and muddled berries to avoid added sugars from bottled mixes. If you love margaritas, especially in the summer, save calories by ordering a skinny version on the rocks; 2 ounces of silver tequila, 1.5 ounces of lime juice, 1 ounce orange juice and 1 lime for garnish.

Sangria can also be a sugar offender since it is typically made with red or white wine, brandy, sliced fruit (sugar) fruit juice (sugar), soda water or sometimes sprite (sugar), spices and ADDED SUGAR. Basically, sangria is wine plus sugar. For a fruity drink that won’t blow your sugar intake, order a Kir Royal (champagne with black raspberry liquor).

Monitor what you eat while you are drinking

Pizza, nachos, cheese fries, cookies, etc. Buzzed eating can set back any healthy day or even an entire week if it becomes a weekend routine.

Opt for one of these “better for you” munchies so you won’t derail your progress while drinking:

  • Peanut butter and banana
  • Whole grain tortilla chips and salsa
  • 1 Low fat string cheese and apples
  • Grilled chicken sandwich
  • Sliced veggies and hummus
  • Plain cheese or veggie slice of pizza
  • Cereal with lowfat milk
  • Grilled Cheese on whole wheat bread
  • Pita chips with hummus