Survive the holidays without gaining an ounce

Pomegranate CosmosPomegranate CosmosI love a glass of wine or a cup of hot cocoa when it's cold out-but since I want to survive the holidays and not gain weight, I'll need to count the calories I drink. After all, it is the season of eggnog and hot chocolate, mulled cider and sparkling wine. 'Tis also the season when Americans tend to put on weight.

It's easy to blame holiday cookies, but festive foods and rich desserts aren't the only culprits. Sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, sports drinks, sweetened teas, etc.) are a key contributor to excessive weight gain and obesity. Consider that:

  • At 500 calories, a Starbucks 16-ounce eggnog latte has almost twice the calories of a regular-size (2-ounce) Snickers bar.
  • A cup of rich hot chocolate can add up to 13 Hershey's Kisses.

Most of us don't consider the calories we get from beverages in the same way we think of those we get from foods. And those calories do count: in fact, soft drinks are now the number one source of calories in Americans' diets (gulp!). One reason for this, research shows, is that we don't compensate for calories we take in from beverages the same way we do for those from solid foods. Find out the illuminating details of the research on feeling satisfied.

But who wants to pass on party drinks and just chew gum during the holidays? My solution is to think about what I drink so I can leave room for my favorite holiday foods. The good news is we don't drink holiday beverages every day. So as long as you think of them as occasional treats and work them into your overall eating and exercise scheme, you should be fine.

My no-fail ways to beat winter weight gain:

  • Most of the time I choose beverages with no calories. These include coffee, herbal teas and water.
  • I make exceptions. One is skim milk, which I drink a couple of times a day. An 8-ounce glass has just 90 calories and provides 316 mg of calcium, about a quarter of the 1,200 mg I need daily.
  • The other exception I make is wine. I'd rather run an extra mile on the treadmill than give up the joy of a glass of great Chardonnay with dinner (just 100 calories).
  • I remember how great Mom's hot chocolate tasted after I'd come in from an hour or two of ice skating. Now I make hot cocoa with skim milk and often sweeten it with Splenda to keep the calories down.

If you're hosting a party, serve delicious, but diet-friendly foods and these easy, low-cal Pomegranate Cosmos as your signature cocktail.

Pomegranate Cosmos

Make the base for these pomegranate cosmopolitans ahead of time and shake individual cocktails "to order." Or for individual drinks, combine 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) each pomegranate juice and vodka, 4 teaspoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon Cointreau, 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger juice and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. To make ahead, prepare through Step 1 and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

2 1/4 cups pomegranate juice
2 1/4 cups vodka
1 cup lime juice
3/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1/4 cup ginger juice (see Note, below)
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably superfine "bar sugar," plus more for the rims
Strips of lime zest for garnish

1. Mix pomegranate juice, vodka, lime juice, Cointreau (or Grand Marnier), ginger juice and sugar in a large pitcher.
2. For each drink, fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, add 1/2 cup Cosmo mix, and shake until the shaker turns frosty and cold. Dip the rim of a martini (or highball) glass into water and then in sugar (to "sugar the rim"). Strain the drink into the martini glass (or over fresh ice in the highball glass). Garnish with a twist of lime zest, if desired.

Makes 12 servings.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 188 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 4 mg sodium; 107 mg potassium.

Note: We use bottled ginger juice (pressed gingerroot) to add the taste of fresh ginger without the work of mincing or grating. Use it to flavor drinks, stir-fries, marinades or anywhere you'd use fresh ginger. Find it in specialty stores or online at

By Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., for EatingWell Magazine

Rachel K. Johnson, EatingWell's senior nutrition advisor, is Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont.

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