Holiday Weight Management

Tips to Help Clients Manage Holiday Alcohol Intake

Do your clients have difficulty managing alcohol intake around the holidays? We know that all cocktails aren’t created equal in terms of calories, carbs, and alcohol content. In addition, during the nearly six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, clients are challenged with attending several gatherings with family, friends, and coworkers where alcohol drinking typically exceeds their usual intake. The following are some practical tips to help clients manage holiday alcohol consumption.

• Get the most bang for your calorie buck. This is especially useful if clients plan on having more than one. To keep calories in check, advise clients to stretch their alcohol budget with noncaloric beverages such as club soda or flavored sparkling water/seltzer (without any sweeteners) between alcoholic drinks.

• Add muddled fruit, a delicious and colorful way to impart flavor with only a few extra calories, plus there’s a small fiber boost. Clients can have vodka with raspberries and blackberries or add pomegranate seeds to a glass of Prosecco.

• Freeze puréed fruit in ice cube trays. Suggest clients add these to drinks such as a sparkling cocktail or a single liquor—watermelon vodka, perhaps? Some sparkling water brands offer varieties containing a small amount of real fruit juice or pulp. One product comes in a cucumber flavor that works well with vodka.

• Choose mixers wisely. In my experience, clients often are surprised to learn that tonic water packs nearly the same amount of sugar as soda, with 12 oz containing 32 g. Lower-calorie or noncaloric mixer options include sparkling water, club soda, and wine spritzers. It’s also important to share with clients that a 2015 study showed that when diet soda is mixed with alcohol, such as in rum and diet cola or vodka with diet lemon/lime soda, the alcohol leaves the stomach faster than with regular soda as the mixer. This leads to a quicker increase in blood alcohol levels, even without detectable differences in behavior. This is especially important for clients who plan on driving or those who have diabetes.

• Think outside the box. More creative clients might want to try blending fresh or frozen fruit with a little juice and a single shot of alcohol and ice. It will stretch the volume of the drink and slow down consumption. They can serve it in a Mason jar with a pretty straw for extra fun. Suggest clients try festive recipes such as this Frozen Cranberry Spice Cocktail to entertain more healthfully.

For reference, here are some calorie counts for popular drinks and spirits:




White Wine 5 oz 121
Red Wine 5 oz 125
Champagne 3.5 oz 75
Vodka, Rum, Whiskey (100 proof) 1.5 oz 124
Rum and Diet Coke 8 oz 100
Vodka Tonic 8 oz 200
Whiskey Sour 3.5 oz 158
Beer 12 oz 153
Light Beer 12 oz 96
Piña Colada 8 oz 327

— Source: USDA

What’s your favorite holiday libation? Please share your calorie saving tricks and ideas in the comments below:

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, is a nutrition communications specialist, speaker, spokesperson, dietitian in private practice, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. Lauren blogs at where she focuses on weight management and prediabetes.

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