EDITOR's NOTE: Welcome Dr. Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD to the Gainesville Lunch Out Blog Staff as our resident expert on all important food information that is healthy, smart, and good for your body, mind, stomach and waistline. Dr. MC will share smart food advice with us on a regular basis and looks forward to answering, discussing any food questions you might have.
Does beer really give me a belly?
With spring in Gainesville under way, hanging out on the porch with a cold one is a nice way to unwind after a long day at work, but do you know how many calories are in that drink? That 8-ounce Long Island ice tea could have upwards of 780 calories. While having a few drinks can feel rewarding, the extra calories can take a toll on your waistline. There are a few things you may want to consider before your next drink.
Alcohol has calories. Many people don't realize that alcohol has calories: about 1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories. Compare this to carbohydrates and protein, which have 4 calories per gram. Even though alcohol has calories, studies show that most people do not eat less food to compensate for calories consumed from alcoholic beverages. This means that you may end up eating and drinking more calories than your body needs, which can lead to weight gain. But don't drink more and eat less – that's a bad combination. In regards to getting a "beer belly", there is little scientific evidence to support site-specific weight gain due to beer consumption. In other words, the excessive amount of calories from alcohol–and the foods you tend to eat when drinking–can certainly contribute to weight gain, but the weight you gain will not all go to your belly.
Stay away from high calorie mixers One way to be savvier with your alcohol intake is to be cautious in choosing what to mix your alcoholic beverage with. Stay away from regular soda and mixers loaded with sugar. Lower calorie mixers include club soda or diet tonic, coconut water, light cranberry juice, light lemonade, coffee, and lemon or lime juice. To eliminate calories from mixers all together, try mixing your liquor with water or drinking it on the rocks.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It is essential to drink water before and during cocktail hour. Drink a large glass of water before you begin drinking and try to have a glass of water in between every alcoholic beverage you consume. This will help you stay hydrated and reduce your risk for consuming excess alcohol and calories. Here's some ideas for drinks and cocktails with 200 calories or less, in order of increasing amount of drink and then increasing calories:
And always remember, no amount of alcohol is safe for pregnant woman to consume and you should never drink and drive!