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Should You Drink Low-Calorie Wine?

Whether you’re ordering cocktails at a holiday party, sipping champagne at a celebratory dinner or cooking with wine (in your glass), you’re consuming calories without ever taking a bite. Mixed drinks like frozen margaritas and eggnog, for example, can weigh in at more than 500 calories, while most wines and beers deliver at least 120 calories – and that’s for an actual (read: not heavy-handed) serving.

So if you’re trying to ditch a few pounds to fit into your new holiday outfit, can choosing low-calorie wines help?

Some vintners are counting on it. Truett Hurst Winery, for example, has partnered with Weight Watchers to launch a line of lower-calorie, lower-alcohol wines including Cense, a newly-released sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, which is available online for $15 and is also sold in certain grocery stores. (Full disclosure: The company sent me a bottle to try.) Skinnygirl also has a line of low-calorie wines, and Brancott Estate produces Flight Song, which is 20 percent lower in calories than others the company carries.

Some of the wines are made using a technology that brings the alcohol content down. Cense, for example, is 9.6 percent alcohol by volume thanks to this technology. Other wines can be lower in calories if the grapes are harvested a few weeks earlier than normal. (The average sauvignon blanc has an 11 to 14 percent ABV, and some wines like a juicy zinfandel have an alcohol content as high as 19 percent.)

Cutting down on alcohol also cuts down on calories. Cense will fill your 5-ounce glass with 85 calories (or in Weight Watchers language, 3 SmartPoints). Skinnygirl’s California White Wine comes in at 100 calories. Typical wines of this type provide around 120 calories for a similar serving size.

Is it worth it? A savings of 20 to 40 calories or so per glass may not seem like a big bonus, but if your cup is going to runneth over to several glasses per sitting anyway, those numbers could add up – especially at this time of year when we may toast a little more frequently. If you’re following Weight Watchers, too, Cense can be a nice way to participate more fully in seasonal festivities without sucking up all your SmartPoints.

[See: Holiday Vices: How to Have Fun Without Overdoing It.]

But if you’d rather enjoy a moderate portion of a higher-calorie wine, these varieties might not be for you. Plus, saving a few calories on the alcohol itself isn’t necessarily going to help you reach or maintain your weight goals since drinking anything with alcohol can decrease your defenses. So when you have no intention of reaching for that bread basket before dinner, after a drink or two, those rolls might be calling your name a little louder. Alcohol can be an appetite-stimulant, too, causing you to eat more than you would have otherwise anticipated.

I, for one, enjoy quality over quantity when it comes to wine. Although hubby and I enjoyed sharing that bottle of Cense, it’s the taste, not the calories, that would bring me to purchase another bottle. Alcohol and calorie counts wouldn’t keep me from my favorite brands, especially if I was just having a glass versus splitting a bottle. But if you’re keeping a careful watch on every morsel of food and drink you consume, lower-calorie types might help you get closer to your weight-loss goals.

[See: 10 Unusual Weight-Loss Tricks That Actually Work.]

Whether or not you choose lower-calorie wines, follow these tips to toast to good health without feeling guilty (or hungover) the next morning:

  • At parties or when dining out, make your first drink club soda or sparkling water with lime. Sip slowly and give yourself a chance to assess the food and beverages offered at the event or restaurant to determine how you’d like to spend your calories. Since alcohol is dehydrating, try to have a glass of water for each glass of alcohol.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and go for wine, champagne or light beer. If spirits like whiskey, vodka, scotch or gin make you feel more festive, pour yourself one shot and add a hefty portion of ice. Be careful of drink mixes that are high in sugar and cause calories to soar.
  • Try not to drink on an empty stomach. Even a handful of nuts before going out could help slow up the absorption of alcohol and its effects.

[See: 8 Resolutions Health Experts Want You to Make.]

  • If you’re going out to dinner, scope out the menu online before you go so you can choose what you’d like to order ahead of time, or glance at the menu before you order your drink. If you wait to order until you’ve had a drink or two, it may be harder to choose wisely.

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