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Alcohol Health Risk or Benefit?
by Tom Jordan, MS, RD

First the NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: As with any substance that has the potential for abuse we must caution it's diligent use. That being said, medical literature today is replete with touting the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Moderate consumption may provide certain health benefits including lowering the risk of heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Also there appears to be a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Diabetes with moderate consumption.

So what is moderate consumption? One drink per day appears to be the recommended norm.

Counting calories? Alcohol has a respectively high calorie content.

First Health offers medically supervised weight loss and long-term weight maintenance programs as a key to establishing better health. Many of our clients ask how alcohol calorie counts fit into weight loss and weight maintenance.  Because our programs are personalized nothing is entirely off-limits. 

  • Hard liquors without additives like tonics, colas, etc. contain approximately 96 calories per ounce. 
  • Wines average 125 calories per glass (5 oz pour).
  • Beer ranges from 100-150 calories (per 12 oz bottle or can).

Mixing your drinks with fancy liqueurs makes the calorie content of alcohol sky rocket.

  • Liqueurs on average are around 200 calories per 1.5 oz.  
  • Champagne appears to be the bargain coming in at 76 calories per 4 oz glass.
  • A margarita will cost you 170 calories for 4 ounces
  • And this may sober you up quickly, eggnog a popular holiday libation comes in at a whopping 343 calories per cup (4oz)!!

​Moderation is the key. If you are watching your waistline alcohol's high caloric values may not be your best friend. However we've found that deprivation is a major roadblock to long-term success so we need to figure out how to have your cake and eat it too (or your martini and drink it too). Your goal should be to plan your consumption around your allotted calorie goals for the week. If you choose that 5 oz glass of wine then also choose grilled veggies rather than a baked potato as your side.


If you are struggling with your weight talk with our dietitian about the benefits of a personalized weight loss plan. Your first visit is free and includes an Eating Pattern Assessment and Dietitian review.