Raise your glass and toast your health. This St. Patty's Day, you can enjoy your favorite alcoholic beverages and still stick with your diet.
All it takes is a little restraint and a round of insight served up by Diet-to-Go.
Studies show that if you're happy with your weight or you're eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise it's likely that you can drink moderately without gaining weight.
It's a balancing act - calories in versus calories burned.
So before you head to the O'Reilly's Pub for a mug or five of green beer and a bowl of corned beef and cabbage, come up with a workable game plan that won't have you awakening the next morning green around the gills and nursing a guilty conscience.
Alcohol is very sneaky. Your willpower and resolve drain the more you drink. Too many "one more round, bartender" declarations can result in a late-night pig out. One night of bingeing in a year of living healthfully won't derail your diet. A problem arises when you try to make drinking a regular part of your diet.
The Food and Drug Administration's Dietary Guidelines for Americans include a recommendation for moderate alcohol -- one to two daily drinks for men, and one for women.
But registered dietitian Susan Burke says you can undo all your good intentions because all alcohol is not created equal.
"Just like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, there are good drinks and then there are very, very bad drinks," Susan says.
"If you're drinking for health, alcohol can lower your risk for stroke and heart disease. If you're drinking with dinner, alcohol makes meals more enjoyable. But if you're drinking to change your mood, perhaps overdoing it, then all bets are off."
You can keep the scale balanced in your favor by cutting back on other calories consumed that day or by burning more calories through an extra-intense exercise routine.
If you choose to drink to honor the snake-chasing Irish saint, then employ the KISS principal (Keep It Simple Sipper). Less is more when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Know that the purer the drink, the fewer the calories. And just say no to sugary mixers and sodas that add unwanted calories.
Whether on the rocks or straight, one shot of vodka, rum, whiskey or gin has roughly 100 calories and barely any carbohydrate.
But only ones that contain club soda, diet soda, diet tonic or water. Mixed drinks are better than straight for the simple reason they last longer. Be aware that regular soda or juice will adds about 100 calories and lots of sugar to each drink.
A 5-ounce serving of red or white wine contains about 100 calories and is fairly low in carbs - only 3 gram per 5-ounce glass for white and about 5 grams for red. Shelve the sweet wines. They contain about 15 grams of carbs per glass.
While one regular beer contains about 150 calories and 13 grams of carbs, a true light beer has less than 100 calories and only 5 grams of carbs. The low-carb beers are not bad but you're only saving 2 grams of carbs per bottle.
Vegetable juice cocktail
A Bloody Mary (vodka with tomato juice and spices, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce) has only 140 calories compared to the 240 of vodka with orange juice or vodka and cranberry juice. Canned tomato juice has a lot of sodium, so be sure to ask for the low-sodium variety.
Whatever you do, steer clear of drinks made with heavy cream (White Russian, anyone?). Some have the nutritional content of desserts!
Other no-no's for the concerned dieter: liqueurs that can contain double the calories of a liquor... brandy, which is higher in calories than the clear liquors (vodka, rum, gin)... and fancy drinks with funny names and multiple ingredients that can add up to more than 500 calories per glass.
If you're really serious about your diet this St. Patty's Day, why not celebrate with diet soda or bottled water? After all, it's the camaraderie not the calories that make this holiday so much fun, right?
If you do decide to drink this St. Patty's Day, please don't drive. Take a cab or put your trust in the hands of a designated driver.
Author: John McGran