The Most Fattening Hour of the Day

The right spirit can help your diet survive happy hour

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

'Tis the season for holiday happy hours and cocktail parties. But will you still be happy when you step on the scale the next morning? After all, alcoholic drinks can tote up 100 to 300 calories apiece.

To navigate past all that free-flowing alcohol with your diet intact, "you've got to go in with a game plan," says Althea Zanecosky, MS, RD, LDN, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Before heading out to happy hour, decide what and how much you'll drink, and come armed with strategies to keep yourself from giving in to temptation.

"'I don't drink' is becoming more socially acceptable," Zanecosky says. "And at most places, people serve sparkling water and other types of nonalcoholic drinks. You can also drink something that looks like alcohol," maybe sparkling water or diet soda with a twist of lemon.

But what if it just doesn't feel like the holidays to you without a special drink? Plan to go ahead and treat yourself, but in moderation, says Zanecosky.

"Champagne is my love, but I can sip on one glass all night, really!" she tells WebMD. "My husband loves eggnog, which is full of calories. But am I going to tell him not to have eggnog? Of course not! Why would you not enjoy eggnog when you only get it once a year? Just make it your dessert, not your drink, that's what I tell him."

Zanecosky offers several other tips for healthier tippling:

  • Limit yourself to one drink per day, or per happy hour.
  • Eat before happy hour, since alcohol can stimulate appetite and impair your judgment. When your defenses are down, you're more likely to gravitate toward the appetizers.
  • If you're hosting the holiday party, look for lower-calorie eggnog recipes using lowfat milk. Or check your dairy case for lower-fat versions of eggnog.
  • Wine spritzers (wine plus soda water or seltzer) and champagne are the lowest in calories. Hard liquor has more calories. Cream-based drinks and frozen drinks generally have the most.