Originally published on iVillage.com
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, we spend more time consuming cocktails than Chris Parnell does macking on Magnolia.
While we can think of diet-friendlier ways to celebrate the holidays, the season would be a lot less merry (think ho-ho-hum) if it weren’t for the mulled wine, eggnog and grog that accompany end-of-year celebrations.
According to Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of 10 Habits that Mess Up a Woman’s Diet, alcohol comes in just behind fat in caloric density, weighing in at 7 calories per gram. Even denser is the amount of festivities squeezed into the month-long holiday season. Trying to navigate the party circuit with any amount of zest, says Somer, is likely to leave you with a 10-pound weight gain, a serious hangover, or both.
So what’s a party girl like you to do? Sip selectively.
Make friends before drinks
First and foremost: Understand that being the life of the party does not mean being the hostess with the mostest liquor in her bloodstream. “Know your limit in drinking, and don’t go over it,” says Leil Lowndes, author of How to Be a People Magnet and How to Talk to Anyone about Anything. “It may make you feel good at the moment, but you will suffer later.” Instead, she suggests having a pre-fete game plan to keep you occupied. “Set specific party goals like meeting three new people. Then, find a sociable friend to introduce you,” says Lowndes. By making the rounds before grabbing a round, you can easily pass an hour swept up in conversation. The longer you can delay the first trip to the bar, the better your chances for keeping a steady pace throughout the evening.
Mix it up
Avoid a calorie binge by mixing up your beverage lineup. “Balance every alcoholic drink with a glass of water,” say Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN, author of The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Superfoods. If flitting about the floor with a goblet of water in hand isn’t your idea of merriment-making, McIndoo suggests alternating your cocktail of choice with calorie-free drinks, spritzers or coolers. Make your own by mixing wine with tonic water. “You’re cutting calories but still have a drink,” she says.
Shake the snack attack
“Alcohol is a triple whammy,” says McIndoo. “Not only are there the calories from the alcohol, there are the calories from the mixer — be it juice, soda or even cream. Plus, alcohol often makes us hungrier, so we end up eating more when we drink, meaning even more calories!”
Don’t show up to the party ready to shovel every hors d’oeuvre within arm’s length into your mouth. “The combination of an empty belly and a buffet makes moderation virtually impossible,” says McIndoo. Instead, put something healthy in your stomach before going out. “Have half a sandwich, a small salad or even a handful of nuts before you go. That way, instead of gorging the minute you arrive, you’ll be able to pick and choose what really looks good to you and be better able to eat small amounts.”
Stage a hunger strike
Alcohol has this tricky way of making us think we’re hungry all of the time. When we drink, it increases our body’s production of saliva and gastric acids. This signals to our stomach that food is on the way. The walls of our stomach constrict in an effort to mix and digest the food, but when no food is actually en route, the contractions create a rumble that makes us think we’re hungry — even when we’re not. The result: calorie overload. “We eat as much as 200 extra calories during a meal when accompanied by one alcoholic drink,” says Somer. By already having something in your stomach when you arrive, you’ll be less prone to mistake the false alarm for true hunger.
Don’t chew the fat
If you are going to nibble, do not consume fatty foods, warns Somer. While this is always sage advice, it is especially pertinent when you’re sipping a cocktail or two. Alcohol is, according to Somer, the least filling of all calorie-containing substances. It is also one of the quickest to vacate the premises. While that may sound like a good thing, think of it this way: Your alcohol-packed beverage is cutting to the front of the metabolism line, leaving other, fattier foods stuck at the back, where they are less likely to be burned off and more likely to be stored as body fat. Steer clear of fat calories so you won’t have to say so long to your hard-earned smooth, supple thighs.