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Smart Holiday Beverage Choices

January 5, 2013 | Lynn Grieger

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Editor's note: the alcoholic beverage recommendations in this article are meant for people 21 years of age and older.

Eggnog, hot chocolate with marshmallows and the latest specialty martinis are part of many holiday celebrations. You may pass on a piece of fudge or skip the hot wings, but it's likely that you are indulging in delicious drinks that may be adding inches to your waistline.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (May 2009 issue) showed that reducing intake of sugar-sweetened beverages leads to gradual weight loss. You may have successfully eliminated soda and sweetened fruit beverages from your daily diet, but you can easily take in more than 500 calories in holiday beverages at just one party. Attend two to three parties each week and your clothes might be too tight by the time January rolls around.

Adding alcohol to a sugar-sweetened beverage only makes the problem worse. One gram of alcohol has seven calories, compared with four calories per gram of carbohydrate or protein. Ounce for ounce, you can consume almost twice as many carbs and protein as you can alcohol.

Alcohol also decreases motivation to make healthy choices. Before you know it, you can devour an entire day's worth of calories at one holiday buffet. If you're an athlete, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends limiting alcohol consumption to 48 hours before competition or intense practice, noting that it inhibits athletic performance.

When deciding what to drink during the holidays, make sure to avoid these beverages:

Eggnog

There's nothing remotely healthy about eggnog, which is made with egg yolks, cream, sugar and rum. One cup contains 340 calories and 56 percent of your daily saturated fat allotment.

Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Frappuchino (16 oz.)

This beverage, made with whole milk and whipped cream, contains 420 calories and 16 grams of fat. You may try to fool yourself into thinking anything made with milk and chocolate is good for you, but in this case, you'd be wrong.

Holiday Punch

Holiday punch recipes made with fruit juice have to be healthy, right? Wrong. Fruit beverages are often laced with added sugar. Mix in sweetened club soda, tonic water or ginger ale and the sugar content skyrockets. Plus, punch often contains more alcohol than you realize.

Martinis

Holiday-themed martinis are festive, but they typically contain sweetened juice and at least two ounces of alcohol, weighing in at more than 300 calories per cocktail.

Instead, opt for these drinks:

Bloody Mary

A Bloody Mary limits sugar consumption and adds the health benefits of antioxidants found in tomato choice. You can even eat a stalk of celery for a fiber boost.

Sparkling Water

Choose fizzy mineral water or seltzer instead of tonic water to help you stay hydrated. Add lemon, lime or a splash of pomegranate juice to infuse some flavor.

Hot Peppermint Tea

Tea contains virtually no calories and is a great substitute for sugary and fatty coffee drinks.

Champagne

Reach for bubbly champagne instead of wine or mixed drinks, since six ounces of champagne contains only 120 calories. Or try a wine spritzer, a mixture of white wine and mineral water topped with a lime slice for a festive beverage with only half the alcohol.

Photo: abcnews.com

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