I’m one of those people who throw an annual holiday party, and every year I make a big bowl (okay, more like 2-3 bowls) of punch for my guests. I serve grown-up punch: its festive appearance (complete with fancy ice ring) belies its potency. People look forward to it because punch is one of those things that just screams “party.” Plus, pretty much nobody else I know makes punch.
Now, as a dietitian, I know that people often forget to think about what they drink—even if they are typically careful about monitoring their food intake. Tippling punch at a party can really tip the scales calorically. A simple 4-oz. margarita weighs in at 168 calories according to the NIH website “Rethinking Drinking.” However, the same website points out that the typical margarita recipe makes a 6-oz. drink, bringing the total calories for 1 margarita to 252 calories. It’s easy to see how adult beverages add significant calories to overall intake. And of course, there’s really no nutrition provided in cocktails (even if there is a stalk of celery, olive or splash of juice included).
Calculating the Calories
You can use the calculators on the Rethinking Drinking website to calculate the calories in alcoholic drinks (you can even enter your own cocktail recipes), as well as other things like drink sizes and % alcohol—it’s a great tool. In the meantime, here’s how some popular alcoholic drinks stack up in the calorie department:
- 12 oz beer = 153
- 12 oz light beer = 103
- 1.5 oz. shot gin/rum/vodka/whiskey/tequila = 97
- 5 oz. red wine = 125
- 5 oz. white wine = 121
- 4 oz. champagne = 84
- 1.5 oz. liquer = 165
- 2.25 oz. traditional martini = 124
- 2.75 oz. cosmopolitan = 146
- 6 oz. mojito = 143
- 4 oz. margarita = 168
- 9 oz. pina colada = 490
Mocktails to the Rescue?
Nonalcoholic punch (such as this one that earns 2 Guiding Stars, or this wassail that also earns 2 stars) and mocktails generally are comprised of juice, fruit, perhaps some herbs or spices, and something bubbly like seltzer or soda. These can be great alternatives to regular cocktails for those wishing to avoid alcohol. However, if you’re aiming to keep calories under control, do not assume that your mocktail has substantially fewer calories just because it’s nonalcoholic.
Festive beverages are part of holiday celebrations, and should be enjoyed. I, for one, will always serve punch at my holiday party. I also serve plenty of seltzer water and have small bottles of water available, along with a variety of other options. A smart way to keep your alcohol consumption in check throughout a party is to have a glass of water after every adult beverage. Alternating this way gives your body some time to deal with the alcohol, keeps your caloric intake from beverages down, and helps ensure good hydration. Garnish your water with a lime or lemon wedge and get back to the party!