Dr Alan Barclay
Festive occasions tend to involve feasting. And when we eat, we tend to have something to drink. But apart from water, drinks usually come with calories. Research shows that on average, overweight adults in the US pack on and extra 5 pounds (2.3 kg) over the six-week Thanksgiving–New Year period.
But the temptation to over-consume as we stand around chatting is a considerable challenge. To minimise weight gain, we really have to plan ahead to make sure we balance healthy food with festive fare along with ensuring we maintain (or increase) physical activity. And we all have to watch what we drink. It’s not just alcohol that’s the problem; many festive beverages are high in calories.
The soft stuff Water is best and although not festive, it is a great in-between-drinks-drink to help you pace yourself on a night out. It doesn’t have to be Chateau Tap. Soda water, mineral water, diet soft drinks, and diet cordials are useful “watery” choices for special occasions with little or no carbohydrate or calories, so they won’t spike your blood glucose or contribute to weight gain.
Vegetable juices are tasty choices with few calories and loads of nutritional goodies. Fruit juices are another story, being rich in carbs (natural sugars) they come with plenty of calories. You are better off enjoying them watered down with mineral or soda water. Most regular soft drinks have even more calories and carbs than fruit juice; the diet or reduced-sugar versions are better choices if you want something sweet.
The hard stuff Keep it moderate – no more than two standard drinks on any day. It takes the liver about an hour to metabolise a standard drink, so don’t down them too quickly. It’s also wise to have at least a couple of alcohol-free days each week (that’s where the planning comes in during the festive season). What’s a standard drink? It is much less than you imagine.
Which alcoholic drink is best?
Along with the taste, the amount of alcohol, carbohydrate and kilojoules/calories in alcoholic beverages are all important factors to consider when choosing a drink. Check out our at-a-glance tables to make better choices in the festive season – and throughout the coming year. (We have rounded all figures up/down.)
- 100ml wine
- 285ml regular or low carb beer
- 425ml low-alcohol beer
- 250ml cider
- 30ml spirits
- 60ml fortified wine
Drinking and diabetes If you are taking medication for your diabetes, alcohol can interact with the medication and cause hypoglycaemia. Either make sure you eat some carbohydrate foods while drinking to reduce your risk of a hypo, or have the drink just before a main meal (which includes some carbohydrate). Here are some good choices for snacks:
- Low GI bread (e.g., Burgen) or grainy crackers with cottage cheese or hummus or salsa or dips
- Mixed nuts and seeds (not salted)
- Fresh fruit platter
- Dried fruit
- Fruit and nut mix
The GI Symbol, making healthy low GI choices easy choices
For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037