If you love to indulge in a flavorful drink during festive occasions, never fear--by learning to become a smart sipper, you can keep the calories in check and still have fun at holiday parties and feasts.
The Worst Offenders
Let's start with the worst offenders: creamy, sweet, alcoholic drinks. These triple-punch combos have beaucoup calories from fat, sugar and alcohol, spelling trouble for your figure. For example, a single cup of eggnog spiked with a shot of bourbon contains nearly 450 calories--and who limits themselves to just one cup? Also containing about 450 calories each, the chocolate martini and the white Russian are two more examples of the fat-sugar-booze triad.
Even without alcohol, creamy-sweet beverages can bust any diet fast. A virgin eggnog has about 343 calories per cup, while simple hot chocolate made with whole milk can set you back about 330 calories.
Alas, drinks from restaurants, coffee houses and fast-food chains tend to be even more fattening than homemade varieties, partially due to the jumbo portions. A grande Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte has 380 calories and one-fifth of the fat you need in an entire day. And a Candy Cane Chill Royal Shake from Dairy Queen? Just one pint contains 730 calories, which is more than a normal meal.
What Should You Drink?
As disturbing as these numbers may be, don't despair; you can still have some holiday fun and respect yourself the next morning. If you prefer alcohol, wine is a sane-yet-tasty choice, providing an average of 123 calories per 5-ounce glass. Just avoid the sweet versions, which have about 165 calories in just 3.5 ounces.
Light beer can be even more diet-friendly than wine, containing just about 103 calories per 12-ounce bottle. But surprisingly, the most weight-friendly alcohols are distilled spirits such as vodka, rum, whiskey, gin and tequila. These contain just 97 calories per 1.5-ounce shot.
For a flavorful cocktail with minimal calories, mix vodka with club soda and add a spritz of fresh lime for flavor. You can also add just a splash of cranberry for festive color with just a few calories. Similarly, add diet tonic water to gin, or diet coke to rum. Both mixers are calorie-free.
If you're skipping the alcohol, club soda with lime is a sparkly, non-caloric choice. Try adding a splash of cranberry or orange juice to brighten it up. If you crave hot, creamy drinks, spare yourself some calories by using nonfat milk for lattes or hot chocolate.
Because even low-calorie drinks can bust your diet if you consume too many, limit yourself to just one or two alcoholic or sugary beverages per sitting. Drink water or club soda in between the more-fattening beverages, and you'll find yourself well hydrated without breaking your calorie budget.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.