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Surviving the Holiday Cocktail Party
Avoid These 10 Fattening Drinks

Happy Holidays! Want a drink?

It's something you'll hear a lot of this time of year. No big deal, right? If you're looking for ways to stay in shape, you'd better think twice about what you order.

One of the surprising secrets about alcohol is how many calories a drink has.

If you eat a gram of protein, it has 4 calories in it. A gram of carbohydrates is the same, with 4 calories in each one. Every gram of alcohol has 7 calories. Only fat has more, with 9 calories per gram. So when you throw back a couple of drinks, it can add up to serious weight fast.

Here's how your body handles the drink.

Since alcohol is a toxin that has to be eliminated, your body burns the alcohol as it's primary fuel and suppresses the amount of fat it would normally burn. The unburnt fat is then stored. The more you drink, the more calories your body has to burn off while hanging onto the fat.

Then there's the problem of impaired decision making. After you've had a few drinks, it may not seem like such a bad idea to eat a pizza and a few deep-fried chicken wings.

Throw into the mix the fact that most people tend to drink more during the holidays, when they're surrounded by fattening cakes, cookies, candies and desserts, and it's a recipe for disaster.

To help you decide what drinks you should order, I've put together a list of 10 fattening drinks (as prepared by the New York Bartenders Guide) as well as some lower-calorie options.

Grasshopper Number one is the Grasshopper weighing in at 527 calories per six-ounce serving. That's more than a Mcdonald's® Quarter Pounder® with Cheese. If you really want to cut the calories, avoid cream-based drinks and save an indulgence like this only for very special occasions.

Long Island Ice Tea A drinking favorite is number two. Typically served in a tall 16 oz. glass the Long Island Ice Tea will set you back 493 calories. You can cut out 97 calories if you substitute Diet Coke for regular, but one drink is still more calories than a small meal. A smarter option would be to order rum and diet cola with a twist.

Mai TaiPina Colada Tropical drinks are numbers three and four. An 8 oz. Mai Tai has 478 calories and an 8 oz. Pina Colada has 448 calories. When people order these drinks, they don't notice the alcohol as much and tend to drink more. Three Pina Coladas might seem like a light night drinking, but it'll add 1,330 calories to your waist. If you like the fruity taste, order a flavored vodka with diet soda.

MudslideFifth on the list is a 4.5 oz. Mudslide at 386 calories. But when was the last time you got a mudslide that small? Skip this drink and order a dessert with coffee. At least with the dessert, you'll get some carbs and fat that your body can use for energy.

Fuzzy NavelThe Fuzzy Navel is sixth with 340 calories. The orange juice may seem like a healthy option, but it still packs on the calories. Try an orange vodka, club soda and a splash of orange juice instead.

MargaritaA 6 oz. Margarita is seventh with 285 calories, but good luck getting one that small. Many bars serve margaritas in 12 oz. glasses, meaning you're really getting 570 calories per drink. Try substituting tequila on the rocks with a splash of lime instead.

White RussianNumber eight is a 4 oz. White Russian with 282 calories. There's no good way to cut the calories on this drink, so save it for a birthday or anniversary.

CosmopolitanThe ninth drink on our list is a 4.5 oz. Cosmopolitan. Long seen as a "sophisticated" drink, this unassuming little glass still holds 228 calories. Cut the calories in half by ordering a vodka and diet cranberry with a squeeze of lime on top.

Gin & TonicOur tenth place spot was the 7 oz. Gin & Tonic at 182 calories. It's long been seen as a "dieter's" drink, but unfortunately, the tonic water is packed with calories. Order it with club soda or sugar-free tonic water instead.

Drink Quick Reference Chart

Serving Size
5 oz.
Wine - Red
5 oz.
Wine - White
5 oz.
Beer - Dark
12 oz.
Beer - Light
12 oz.
Beer - Regular
12 oz.
8 oz.
3 oz.
Rum & Soda
8 oz.
Whiskey Sour
4 oz.

How many drinks will make you drunk?

Try our online Blood Alcohol Test to see!

Want to drink less? The best thing to do is to have a plan before you go out. Decide what and how much you're going to drink and then follow these steps to stick to the plan.

  1. Eat something before you go out. Then make sure to eat something else when you start drinking. Food will slow the absorption of alcohol, especially fats and carbohydrates. The healthiest choice would be to eat some complex carbohydrates like whole-grain breads, wild rice, oatmeal or a sweet potato. If you're full, you're likely to drink less.

  2. In between each drink, have a glass or bottle of water. You'll have something in your hand so you won't feel awkward at a party and the water can help you lessen the impact of a hangover if you drink too much.

  3. Put a coin in your pocket for each drink you decided you're going to have. Every time you order a drink, remove one of the coins. Once the coins are gone, you've ordered your limit and can't have anymore. Order sparkling water with a twist of lemon or diet soda the rest of the night. (Of course, if you think getting drunk and fat is a good way to improve your social life, keep on drinking!)

  4. Use smaller glasses. Just like larger plates encourage you to eat more, larger glasses encourage you to drink more. Choose a smaller glass and you won't fill it up as much.

  5. Put the glass on the table when you pour your drink. Researchers found that if you pour a drink directly into the glass while holding it, you tend to pour about 12% more into the glass. Set it down when you fill it up and you'll serve yourself less.

  6. If you're hosting a holiday party, make sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available for yourself and your guests.
    Want more fun alcohol facts? Click Here for our article on Alcohol Trivia!

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Updated 9/16/2015
Updated 9/18/2019