Whether you’re out at the bars or enjoying a night in at a friend’s apartment party, an endless combination of mixed drinks you can order or create yourself awaits.
While you are probably not thinking about how “healthy” the drink in your hand is, you’d be surprised to know how quickly both calories and sugar add up. Combine all of your drinks together for one night, and you’ve most likely eaten a full meal’s worth (or more) of calories.
“Calories can add up quickly when consuming alcoholic beverages, so moderation is key,” says Jennifer Norgaard, a registered dietician for the Hy-Vee in Ankeny. “The average can of beer has 150 calories, hard liquor contains about 175 calories for just 2 ounces, and wine contributes 80 calories per half cup.”
If you still want to enjoy an alcoholic drink but cut out some calories, there are plenty of options.
“The Skinnygirl cocktails or light beers are a good recommendation for watching calories, while still enjoying an occasional alcoholic beverage,” Norgaard says.
Healthier boozing shouldn’t take away from the fusion of flavors that you enjoy, so while you’re out, take advantage of your opportunity to play bartender. Here are a few great tips for lighter drink options:
- Choose a light alcohol over one that is darker in color. Beer choices such as Bud Select 55 (55 calories per bottle), Miller Genuine Draft 64 (64 calories per bottle), and Michelob Ultra’s original or flavored beer (95 calories) are all a light amber color and contain less than 100 calories per bottle.
- Request a low-calorie mixer. Opt for seltzer or tonic water rather than carbonated water. If your drink requires a carbonated beverage such as Coke or Sprite, ask for diet or natural pop instead. For fruity cocktails, use a light version or fresh-squeezed fruit or vegetable juice since it contains less added sugar and calories than its regular counterpart.
- Go for a simple syrup or create your own. Sugar-free and light syrup options are available. You can also sweeten your drink with agave syrup or combine 1/2 tablespoon honey with 3/4 tablespoon warm water as a homemade sweetener. For natural sugars, skip out on the syrup and use pieces of fruit instead. Not only are you adding a sweet flavor with fruit, but fiber and antioxidants are an added bonus.
- Limit yourself to one shot per alcoholic beverage. Many mixed drinks contain multiple shots, so in order to lighten the caloric load, ask for one shot only (1.5 ounces) in shooters and cocktails.
- Pay attention to size. A typical serving size for beer is 12 ounces. One serving size for a mixed drink with one shot is about 8 ounces.
- Try your liquor on the rocks. Since mixers tend to quickly add up in calories, order your favorite spirit over ice. Many types of vodka are now infused with various flavors so the taste may not be quite as bad as you think.
If you are looking for a few healthier mixed drink ideas, don’t pass these up:
Pour 1 shot vodka, 1 shot cranberry juice (light or fresh-squeezed), and 1 shot grapefruit juice (light or fresh-squeezed) over ice. Add a splash of seltzer or tonic water.
Sour Apple Spritzer
Pour 1 shot sour apple vodka and ½ cup seltzer over ice. Garnish with a green apple slice and a cinnamon stick.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Heat 1 cup skim milk in a mug and add 1 packet light hot cocoa mix. Stir well. Add 1 shot tequila and ⅓ shot peppermint schnapps.