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Nutrition and you!

Drink wisely — and cut calories — over the holidays

Excerpted from the Nutrition and You! blog on Boston.com.

With holiday parties upon us, I thought these two studies were interesting this festive time of the year when there tends to be an abundance of alcohol flowing.

The first study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, looked at the trend among some young adults called “predrinking” or “frontloading.” This is the practice of consuming alcohol before heading out for an evening of socializing. For some, the rationale for doing this is to save money. Let’s face it, wine, beer, and liquor are cheaper when you buy it by the bottle rather than paying a premium price per glass at clubs, bars, and sporting events. At first glance, you may think that this would reduce the overall amount of alcohol consumed in a night. Since money is tight among those who “predrink,” they can’t afford to drink a lot when socializing outside the home. However, the reality may surprise you.

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In a study of 180 young adults (average age of 23), researchers tracked their weekend (Thursday through Saturday) consumption of alcohol. Those who drank before leaving the house consumed an average of about 7 drinks nightly compared to about only 4 drinks for those who didn’t drink before going out. In essence, predrinking leads to overdrinking when you couple it with socializing outside the home. Not surprisingly, those who over-drank also reported adverse outcomes from their bingeing such as hangovers, blackouts, and increased violence.

The second study suggested that American adults, on average, consume almost 100 calories a day (about 4 ounces of wine) from alcohol. (A standard drink is considered 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.) At the extreme, almost 20 percent of American men and 6 percent of women consume more than 300 calories daily from booze.

While a 4-ounce serving of wine may not seem like a lot of calories, keep in mind that many wine goblets that are being used nowadays hold 8 ounces or more of wine, escalating the calories per glass.

Based on the studies, these tips may help you minimize alcohol and calorie consumption during this festive time:

Don’t drink at home before an event.

Take inventory of your wine and beer glasses and measure how much they hold. If need be, shop around for smaller ones.

If you want to drink, go for quality over quantity. Buy more expensive wine, beer, or liquor and savor one fine drink rather than several of a lower quality.

Drink alcohol in a one-to-one ratio. After consuming a glass of wine or beer, make the second “drink” a large glass of sparkling water. Who knows — you may end up stopping after the second “drink” of water.

Joan Salge Blake is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University. Read her blog at Boston.com/NutritionAndYou. She can be reached at salgeblake@comcast.net.
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