As we begin the holiday season many of us will be challenged to avoid gaining the extra pounds which will require a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. We will be surrounded with cakes, pies, cookies, and candy canes all month, and then face the inevitable series of holiday parties with co-workers, family and friends. We are aware of the calories contained in many of the foods we will be offered, but are probably less aware of the role alcohol plays in caloric intake and weight gain. Recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2010 (www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db110.htm) provides insight into the contribution of alcohol in increasing the caloric intake of many Americans. Although the role of sweetened beverages as a source of calories has received much attention, the same cannot be said of alcohol. Keep in mind that one beer contains 150 calories, one glass of wine 120 and 1.5 ounces of liquor 100.
The survey examined the self reported habits of adults aged 20 and over. On a typical day, 33% of men and 18% of women consume alcohol, with 20% of men and 6% of women consuming more than 300 calories from this source. Men are more likely to consume beer (20% vs 5% on a given day) while women are more likely to drink wine (5% vs. 7%). On average, men consume 150 calories each day while women consume 50; however consumers of alcoholic beverages obtain 16% of their total daily caloric intake from this source!!! No significant differences were noted by race or ethnicity. However, income differences were noted with those in the higher income brackets consuming more alcohol and therefore taking in more calories.
What is the recommended total daily caloric intake? Women 19 to 30 years of age need between 2,000 and 2,400 calories daily. If you are 31 to 50, you need between 1,800 and 2,200 calories daily and women over the age of 51 need between 1,600 and 2,200 calories daily. Sedentary women should stick to the lower end of the range while those who live an active lifestyle should aim for the higher range. Men aged 19 to 30 years old need between 2,400 to 3,000 calories daily. For the 31 to 50 age group, consume between 2,200 and 3,000 daily. If you are over the age of 51, then you need between 2,000 and 2,800 calories daily. Men tend to need more calories than women because they are taller and weigh more. If you live an active lifestyle, aim for the higher end of the calorie ranges.
I don’t want to undercut the old saying “eat, drink and be merry”, but the more emphasis on merry, and the less on eating and drinking will help you maintain a healthy weight going into 2013.