28 December 10 Alcohol & Parties

Since New Year's Eve is in three days, I'm thinking about alcohol. Alcohol is fairly caloric – it contains 7 calories per gram compared to 9 calories for fat, and 4 calories for carbohydrate or protein. Other components of alcoholic drinks also contribute to calories, for instance, carbohydrates in beer, fortified wine, and liqueurs. Cream- and chocolate-based liqueurs will have additional calories from fat.

What exactly is considered a "standard drink"? The National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) has published a list of commonly consumed alcoholic drinks by volume and alcohol percentage. These drinks provide about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which means at least 98 calories per drink:

  • 12 fl oz of regular beer (5% alcohol)
  • 8-9 fl oz of malt liquor (7% alcohol)
  • 5 fl oz table wine (12% alcohol)
  • 3-4 fl oz of fortified wine such as sherry or port (17% alcohol)
  • 2-3 fl oz of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif (24% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fl oz jigger or shot of brandy (40% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fl oz jigger or shot of 80-proof spirits/hard liquor (40% alcohol)

Of course, your decision to drink shouldn't be based solely on calories. Safety needs to be the priority in determining if and how much alcohol you drink at a party. According to the Mayo Clinic in "Alcohol Use: If you drink, keep it moderate," avoid alcohol if you: are planning to drive a vehicle or operate machinery, are pregnant, have had a bleeding stroke, are alcoholic, have liver or pancreatic disease, have heart failure, and those who take certain medications (over-the-counter and prescription).

Most people will metabolize one standard drink per hour. However, this may or may not be the case for you, especially if you are an older and/or a smaller person. Here are some tips from NIAA if you plan to drive home after a party:

  • Eat first, especially foods with protein.
  • Drink slowly and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Establish your own safe limit and stick to it.

The Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies has some tips for hosts in "Healthy Choices for Partying." Recommendations include offering plenty of non-alcoholic drinks, using juice instead of carbonated mixers (carbonation speeds alcohol absorption), serve food, serve alcohol in measured amounts instead of from open containers (e.g. keg), serve alcohol in intervals, stop serving alcohol well before the party ends and don't let a guest drive home impaired or drunk.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that your celebration is joyful and safe.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Alcohol & Other Beverages/Calories

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