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24 HEALTHY & ACTIVE 2017/2018 Q I've heard that having a few cocktails affects my metabolism. Does alcohol change my ability to burn calories? A Drinking alcohol definitely affects your metabolism. Your body is unable to convert alcohol into energy the same way it does protein and carbohydrates. When all three enter the equation, like at a party with food and libations, your liver focuses first on metabolizing alcohol, which slows down the processing of pro- tein and carbohydrates. As a result, you may burn calories more slowly, which can cause you to gain weight over time. A Generally, yes. If you are going to pour a cocktail, it's a good idea to choose low-calorie mixers. Regular soda or juice adds anywhere between 100 and 240 calories. Try substituting seltzer water, diet tonic water, diet soda, diet club soda or sugar-free juice— these can help reduce the total calorie count of the beverage. Another way to cut calories is to dilute the alcohol with either water or ice. If you are miss- ing the flavor of the soda or juice, try to add a small splash of either for more flavor. Tomato juice is another suitable choice if you are look- ing for a flavorful, lower-calorie option for your cocktail. Or, consider making a "mocktail." A mocktail is an alcohol-free version of your favorite drink. If you enjoy a cranberry and vodka, for example, try ordering a light cranberry juice and seltzer water instead. nutrition Answers by Dena McDowell, MS, RD Alcohol and Your Weight-Loss Plan Q Is having a "skinny" or diet cocktail a better choice? It's no secret that many adults enjoy an occasional cocktail during family gatherings or social events. But will one sip tip the scales in the wrong direction? Registered Dietitian Dena McDowell answers your questions about alcohol and shares a pre- party game plan. AZZZYA/ISTOCK/THINKSTOCK

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