How to Have a Healthy Happy Hour

Cheers with lower-calorie drinks this season.

June 22, 2007 — -- With warm weather comes outdoor happy hours, sunset cocktail dates and booze-filled barbecues -- all ample opportunities to indulge in one drink too many.

But on "Good Morning America," Women's Health magazine editor Lisa Drayer said alcohol isn't all bad. Moderate consumption -- one drink a day for women -- has been associated with reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. It's also been associated with reduced risk of mental decline.

And there are some healthy alternatives to calorie-packed summer drinks like margaritas and daiquiris -- click here for recipes for white wine sangria, a blackberry sunset and a melon kiwi-tini.

Still, Drayer said women should indulge in alcohol with caution. It takes very little alcohol to increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. One study found that for each 10 grams of alcohol consumed a day, the lifetime risk of a woman developing breast cancer increases by almost 10 percent.

For the average woman who has one drink a day, this means that her chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime would go from one in eight (12.5 percent) to about one in seven (about 14.25-percent).

Given the same body weight, a woman will achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood and become more impaired than a man after drinking the same amount of alcohol. This is likely due to the fact that women have more body fat and less water than men, making the alcohol more concentrated in the bloodstream.

Imbibe Wisely

With these caveats in mind, Drayer offered the following drinking tips for women:

1. Drink in moderation: The key to a healthy happy hour is to drink in moderation, defined as one drink per day for women, two for men.

2. If you're on a weight loss plan, consider limiting alcohol consumption to no more than three drinks per week. When drinking, opt for red wine, white wine, light beer or rum and diet cola -- all have about 100 calories per serving.

3. If you have a family history of breast cancer, avoid alcohol as much as possible.

4. Know what "one drink" is equivalent to. One drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce can of beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor (these all have approximately 12 grams of alcohol.) When ordering a mixed drink at dinner or at happy hour, know that it may have a lot more than one and a half ounces of hard liquor. One martini may really have two or three servings of alcohol.

5. Make sure you are meeting your folic acid requirements -- 400 micrograms/day. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that women with a high consumption of alcohol (about three alcoholic beverages a day) and a low intake of folate had an increased risk of breast cancer, compared with those with higher folate intakes.

6. If you are going to drink, drink with meals. Alcohol is absorbed faster when there's no food in your system.