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Holiday Treats + Alcohol = Extra Calories and the Gift of a Spare Tire

Posted Dec 08 2008 7:01am

Holiday Treats + Alcohol = Extra Calories and the Gift of a Spare Tire

Holiday Drinks For those of you wanting to drown your sorrows of a holiday season gone mad with copious amounts of spiked eggnog like actor Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation or bringing good cheers by combining large amounts of high-fat treats with high-caloric alcohol, the New Year may start with a rude awakening.

A study conducted at the Laval University in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, showed that combining high-fat foods such as glazed ham, stuffing and pecan pie with alcoholic drinks causes people to put away many more calories than eating fatty foods with nonalcoholic drinks, or eating low-fat foods with or without alcohol, according to an article that appeared in  The New York Times.

“We found that the body does not seem to ‘notice’ the calories from alcohol and compensate by reducing other intake,” reported Dr. Angelo Tremblay, who led the study. “The result is higher caloric intake whether you are eating a high- or low-fat diet.”

Considering that a traditional Christmas dinner can easily add up to more than 1,500 calories—a plate filled with ham, cornbread with butter, a slice of cheesecake, mashed potatoes with gravy, salad with croutons and vinaigrette, and a glass of beer—consuming additional calories from alcohol is likely to put extra pounds on your frame.

This, of course, begs the question whether some alcoholic beverages are more forgiving— at least in terms of their caloric intake— than others.

The general answer: Hard liquor and cocktail drinks tend to have many more calories than a glass of beer or wine, but having one cocktail or multiple drinks can easily add up to a meal.


In the movie Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold asks his cousin Eddie, who is unemployed and arrived uninvited with his entire family, if he can refill his eggnog. Considering that one cup of eggnog (250 ml) contains 160-290 calories and a shot of spirits adds about another 60 calories, it would serve Clark well to share his spiked eggnog and sorrow.


Holiday Drinks Red and white wine have about the same amount of calories, or 121-125 calories per 5-ounce glass. Dessert wines tend to have more calories: A 3.5-ounce glass, for instance, has about 165 calories, according to Eat this, Not That book author David Zinczenko. Add sugar to sparkling wine before final bottling and you get the bubbly we all love during the Holiday season and a few extra calories, or about 163 in a 6.5-ounce flute.


Holiday Drinks Among popular non-light beers on the market, a 12-ounce bottle of Corona Extra (148 calories, 14 g of carbs and 4.6% alcohol by volume) is the “lightest” pick.

Ranking just below the Mexican brew, in terms of caloric intake, are three beers: Samual Adams Boston Lager (160 calories, 18 g of carbs and 4.8% alcohol content) and Bass Ale (160 calories, 13 g of carbs, 5.5% alcohol content) and George Killian’s Irish Red (163 calories, 14 g of carbs, 4.9% alcohol content).

Zinczenko’s “worst pick”: Sam Adams Cream Stout beer, which has 190 calories, 24 g of carbs and an alcohol volume of 4.9%.

Better for your waist line are the following two “light beers”: Beck’s Premier Light with 64 calories, 4 g of carbs and 3.8% volume of alcohol and Michelob ULTRA, which has 95 calories, 2.6 carbs and 4.1% volume of alcohol. Amstel Light, which packs 99 calories, 5.5 g of carbs and 3.5% volume of alcohol, is a true alternative to Amstel’s heavyweight Cream Stout.

Guiness Draught may be the surprising low-calorie standby: One bottle has 126 calories, 10 g of carbohydrates and 4% volume of alcohol.

Hard Liquor and Cocktails = Hard to Burn Calories

When it comes to hard liquor, a 1.5-ounce glass of 53-proof Kahlua has 170 calories, which is only 10 calories shy of a whole wheat Krispy Kreme doughnut.

A 1.5-ounce serving of 90-proof Gin has 110 calories, the caloric equivalent of a ½ cup of Zesty Lemon Sorbet from Haagen-Dazs.

A frozen margarita made with 2 ounces of tequila, 4.5 ounces of Jose Cuervo margarita mix, and salt will set you back about 246 calories, the equivalent of a 4-ounce serving of Baskin-Robbins Cherries Jubilee ice cream.
Holiday Drinks
One Pina Colada, made with Malibu rum, pineapple juice and cream, packs about 312 calories, or 32 calories less than the Small Chocolate Sundae sold at the Dairy Queen.

A 12-ounce serving of Rum and Coke will set you back 361 calories, or those packed in Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
Holiday Drinks
The Mudslide, made with vodka, coffee liqueur, Irish cream and vanilla ice cream, is the bomb of all cocktails. It packs 820 calories in a 12-ounce serving, an entire restaurant meal.

For the same calories packed in a Mudslide cocktail you can eat 1 Arby’s Roast Beef and Swiss Market Fresh Sandwich (810 calories); 1 Denny’s Buttermilk Pancake Platter (890 calories); or 2 slices of Domino’s Classic Hand-tossed Pizza (510 calories) and a soda.

Holiday DrinksBy comparison, a 2-ounce serving of Martini, made with Gin and dry Vermouth, has 119 calories; a 2.1-ounce serving of a Manhattan, made with Whiskey, Vermouth and Bitters, has 132 calories. This makes these two “Ms” the low-calorie cocktail drink alternative.

Among Zinczenko’s recommendations for “better cocktail choices” are an 8-ounce Bloody Mary (140 calories; 8 g of carbs; 150 mg sodium) drink and a 6-ounce Screwdriver (130 calories; 13 g of carbs) drink.

A Happy Holiday

So whether you’re struggling with holiday angst or excessive holiday cheer, try going for a walk, a bike ride or any other type of physical activity that will lift your spirits.

Being physically active before or after a meal will not only help burn calories, but is also a great way to deal with holiday stress.

Then get the family and friends together for a great comedy hour with the Griswold’s, the Grinch, or if you prefer a Hallmark classic, the television rebroadcasting of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and an ACE-certified Personal Trainer. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at

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