Alcohol: How Does it Fit into Your Diet?


A glass of wine with a friend, a margarita with the girls, and a beer on a hot summer day… How does alcohol fit into a healthy diet? The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends drinking in moderation. This includes limiting your intake to two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women.

Benefits vs Risks

There is evidence to support both health benefits of drinking as well as the risks associated with it. When making decisions about alcohol consumption, it’s important to weigh both risks and benefits. Some health benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease, which also reduces the risk of stroke and diabetes. This sounds promising! Other evidence shows those who drink, even moderately, can increase their risk of developing cancer.

The risks of drinking increases significantly when you come consume more. Heavy drinking and binge drinking can increase your risk of developing cancer, high blood pressure, liver disease, pancreatitis, and stroke, just to name a few.

What’s in Your Drink?

It’s also important to determine the serving size of an alcoholic drink. Many are surprised when they learn what an appropriate serving size looks like because it’s easy to pour a large glass. When choosing a drink, the serving size is 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits, or 8 oz. of malt liquor. Remember to keep track of how many drinks you consume.

The nutritional value of your drink is also something to consider. Alcohol is high in calories. It has seven calories per gram vs four calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein, so it can add up quickly. Managing your weight can be difficult if you consistently consume alcohol.

  • 12 oz. light beer: 100 calories
  • 12 oz. regular beer: 150 calories
  • 5 oz. white wine: 130 calories
  • 5 oz. red wine: 120 calories
  • 1.5 oz. vodka: 115 calories
  • 1.5 oz. rum: 115 calories

Mixed drinks have even more calories. Adding a sugary mixer to alcohol can greatly increase the amount of calories you consume. It’s best to choose a sugar-free mixer like a seltzer water or a calorie-free beverage to stay on track.

  • 4 oz. margarita: 170 calories
  • 7 oz. Pina colada: 500 calories
  • 8 oz. Rum and coke: 190 calories

Finding moderation

Be aware of the pros and cons of drinking alcohol, but most importantly have awareness!

  • When choosing an alcoholic beverage, consider a low-calorie option.
  • When drinking, choose moderation. Consider drinking a non-alcoholic beverage or a low-calorie beverage after each drink containing alcohol.
  • Remember, all social events do not have to have alcohol. Find calorie-free beverages to drink as a substitute.
  • Plan ahead to determine when you will have an alcoholic beverage and when you will decide to abstain.
  • Keep an eye on your weight. If you find alcohol is affecting your weight negatively, decide to limit your consumption and play closer attention to each drink.

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