What Do I Do About Alcohol When I'm Eating Out Or At A Party?

Question: What do I do about alcohol when I'm eating out or at a party?

Answer: One of the sources of calories people often overlook is calories in liquid form, and in particular, alcoholic beverages. If you travel for business, eating out may also mean drinking out. And several drinks could potentially add 200 or even 300 calories to a meal. You do that on a regular basis, and those alcoholic drinks, all alone, could be the reason you're heavier than you want to be.

Also, while some alcohol is clearly good for lowering heart disease risk factors, too much alcohol, as I suspect everybody knows, is not a good idea. It's bad for health, it can harm the liver, harm the pancreas. It can even increase cancer risk, in particular, in women.

So you want to be moderate about alcohol intake, and this is true whether you're at home or you're out. The ideal level of alcoholic intake, assuming that you have no particular vulnerabilities to alcohol -- in which case you may need to avoid it altogether, but for most of us, the ideal level is 1-2 drinks for men, up to 1 drink a day for women, not more than that. And even then, there's still 100, 200 calories coming from alcohol. You have to make room for those calories by consuming less of other things.

If you're at a business dinner or lunch, if entertaining clients is part of what you do, you can be sociable, have a drink in your hand, and nobody needs to know it's not alcoholic. You can have tonic water. Nonalcoholic beverages reduce the amount of alcohol you consume, reduce the calories.

If you're at a party, you can also alternate. Have a glass of wine or a cocktail, then interrupt the consumption of alcohol with a nonalcoholic drink with no calories -- mineral water, sparkling water. And then you can have another drink. That keeps alcohol level moderate, which is important for health overall. It also limits the amount of calories that come in. And those calories don't affect our appetite center the way solid food does, so it's very easy to get a lot of calories from drinks and not even notice. So you have to pay attention.