Sip Wisely: Tips for Smart Alcohol Picks

With spring fever in the air, relax with a glass (or two) of alcohol. Beer, wine and cocktails can be part of a healthy diet---as long as you do it responsibly and follow our tips.
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With spring fever in the air (and Memorial Day barbecues this weekend), relax with a glass (or two) of  your drink of choice. Beer, wine and cocktails can all be part of a healthy diet -- just follow our tips to avoid overdoing it.

Keep Portions in Check

According the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the allotted amount of alcohol per day is one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man. What’s considered a drink? 12 ounces of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor like vodka or rum. Each of these portions contain around the same amount of calories -- a reasonable 100-150 calories. It’s when the drinking starts getting out of control that the calories really add up and the beer gut starts coming out. Plus, who needs a nasty hangover the next day? Try one of these healthy options:

Beer

If you’re gonna grab a cold one, go for the lighter varieties with around 100 calories per 12 ounce bottle or can. If you cringe at the thought of light beer, go ahead and grab a regular one. These ring in at closer to 150 calories, so remember to stick to suggested portions (12 ounces for women and 24 ounces for men per day.) Avoid ordering up multiple pints -- you’ll get too drunk to even care how many calories you’re guzzling.

Here's the calorie count for some light beers (per 12 ounces):
  • Corona Light: 105 calories
  • Amstel Light: 95 calories
  • Bud Light: 110 calories
  • Heineken Light: 99 calories
  • Rolling Rock Light: 104
Wine

I love sipping on a glass of sparking wine at the end of a long day. Many folks go for the red because of the heart-healthy antioxidant resvertrol found in red grapes. But overindulgence increases the risk for heart failure and high blood pressure, and one or two glasses will not give you enough of the antioxidant to make a huge difference — a catch-22 of sorts. With that in mind, go for whichever type of wine you like — red, white, sparkling. If you’re looking for a bit of a healthier option, try red wine sangria with lots of fresh fruit (another source of antioxidants).

Read more on wine:
Cocktails

Here’s where the calories can really get out of control. Cocktail mixes are packed with sugar and when combined with alcohol, the calories for one drink can be as high as 500 calories (or more). If you’re going to shake up a cocktail, add fresh fruit or fruit juice to get a shot of antioxidants and vitamins. Also, size does matter—use smaller glasses to keep portions in check.

Recipes:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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