By Debra Soufleris, B.S., DTR
With summer coming to an end, and with the slow return to stricter work schedules and more traffic, life can get hectic. After a long stressful week of work, what better way to unwind than to meet up with friends and coworkers for happy hour? However, some of those cocktails can be loaded with excess sugar and calories—which can derail you from keeping that summer bod you worked so hard for. Are there healthier cocktail options?
It’s all too easy to overdo it with a few drinks at the bar. One drink can quickly turn in to four if the night is going well. Most mixed drinks contain about 300 calories and roughly 20g-40g of sugar depending on what you order. Some frozen drinks can contain well over 500 calories in just one drink! Alcohol also has a way of lowering our inhibitions, making it much harder to stick with our nutrition goals. All of a sudden, those nachos or that slice (or two) of pizza become way too hard to resist. Be sure to learn about the effects of alcohol on the body.
Fortunately, happy hour doesn’t have to destroy your diet. With a little planning, you can avoid a diet disaster by knowing which drinks can fit into your healthy lifestyle. There’s no reason to miss out on all the fun just because you have been killing it at the gym and eating super clean. There are plenty of low-cal drink options that are perfect for unwinding after a long tough week. What is the best cocktail to drink on a diet? Try some of these ideas:
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cold beer or refreshing glass of Rose as the sun goes down. Hovering around 100 calories each, wine and beer can fit into all diet plans and are relatively low in sugar. This includes most types of beer and wine, so if Cabernet is more your style, go for it. They are all about the same when it comes to their nutritional profile.
Not everyone wants to drink wine or beer. Thankfully, there are plenty of cocktails that can be enjoyed without breaking your calorie budget. Instead of using the standard mixers that most bars serve, don’t be afraid to ask for your drink to be made your way.
Mix cocktails with sparkling water, club soda, low-calorie juices, or muddled fresh fruit. Just be careful, as some fruit juices still contain a lot of sugar and calories and can add up quickly. Adding a splash of freshly-squeezed lemon or lime goes a long way and adds a much-needed flavor boost. If you’re following a low-carb eating plan but still want a little sweetness, ask for a no-cal sugar sweetener instead of simple syrup.
Try these ideas to keep from overdoing it at the bar.
Deciding on how many drinks you’re going to have—and sticking to it—might just prevent you from going beyond your limit. This could also help prevent a hangover so you can stick with your morning workout the next day.
Commit to consuming a full glass of water for each alcoholic drink you have. This will keep you hydrated and also help you avoid a splitting headache later.
Eating first often gets overlooked as sometimes a foolish way to save calories. However, drinking on an empty stomach causes the alcohol to go right into your bloodstream, which makes you feel the effects much quicker and much stronger the next day. Having some lean protein, healthy fats, and—yes—even carbs in your stomach prior to drinking will help slow down the absorption of alcohol so you feel better tomorrow.
Believe it or not, sometimes we just don’t want to drink alcohol but still want to join in on the fun. There’s nothing wrong with ordering a tall glass of sparkling water with a hint of cranberry juice and lime to satisfy your thirst and avoid having to explain to all your friends why you’re not drinking. Sometimes you just need to fake it – to make it.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, here are some of my favorite low-cal cocktails you can enjoy without guilt. They are all fewer than 200 calories and low in sugar.
Mint, lime, and soda water are all naturally low in calories. A shot of rum will add an additional 90 calories. By ordering this drink with just a small amount of simple syrup, you can drastically reduce the calories and added sugar. Asking for just 1-2 tablespoons will keep this cocktail at about 150 kcals.
OK not the most original drink, but why mess with a classic? Besides this can be customized any way you like it. What is the healthiest drink to mix with vodka? Add a splash of your favorite juice if you desire, perhaps toss in a few fresh strawberries and lime, and enjoy this low-cal refreshing drink.
This classic combination can easily fit in with your nutrition goals, and it tastes good, too. There’s just something special about the bitterness of the tonic water that makes this drink a classic.
For something a bit more daring, along with the added benefits of kombucha, try this drink: Pour a shot of tequila, add a little honey and lime, and then top it all off with your favorite kombucha. Just be mindful of the sugar and calories in the kombucha, as some of them can be pretty high.
You now know how to pull together a delicious, yet healthier cocktail. So, feel free to reward yourself with one today!