Summer is right around the corner, and we all know what that means. Warm weather, going out and having a good time, pool parties with friends…and of course, vacations! Which also means now is the time that we are revisiting those New Year’s Eve resolutions (maybe renewing them for Lent?) to eat better and start working out a little more. So there goes all the little pleasures; bread, desserts, and of course, drinks. Everyone knows that you have to cut out alcohol if you want to lose weight and live healthier, right?
While there are pros and cons to alcohol consumption from a general health standpoint, we want to look good in a bathing suit at the moment. Right now, let’s just stick to the info that matters: calories and carbohydrates. The calories in alcohol are, for the most part, empty. You do not get an energy boost from them, and they do not really fill you up. But, calories are calories, and they all count to your caloric intake for the day. As far as carbohydrates go, not all liquors contain them. Beer, liqueurs, and wines are the major culprits when it comes to carbohydrates, so they are avoidable during a night on the town. But without the carbohydrates (which at least provide a little actual energy), that makes the calories even emptier.
All of that sounds like bad news. Until we start looking closer at what you are drinking. Let’s start with the best bang for your caloric buck, wine. The breadth of wines you can go out and find is amazing, containing a wide variety of flavor profiles; everything from deep and peppery to light and fruity. At a standard serving of 5 oz., red and white wines contain a scant 120 calories. Just stay out of the reach of dessert wines, which will hit you in the gut with 200 calories for the same serving. The only, very slight drawback to wine could be the fact that every serving has a carb or two. Literally, they carry one or two grams of carbohydrates per glass.
If you are hitting the Atkins or any other low-carb sort of diet, start turning your gaze towards the hard liquors like rum, whiskey, vodka, and gin. All of these drinks contain zero carbohydrates. They do carry a higher calorie count than wine does, handing out about 100 calories per standard (1.5 oz.) shot. And if you are not a straight liquor drinker, you can add soda water, water or diet soda to reduce the impact on your taste buds without putting additional stress on your belt. If that does still not taste right, add a splash of fruit juice. Lemon or lime juice will add more flavor than anything else to the mix and you can pull in the heavy hitters like orange juice or cranberry juice if needed. Remember, just a splash to get the flavor in.
Beer is next in the hierarchy of what to drink while you are watching your weight. You can find quite a few light beers to sip in any bar or restaurant you go to. You can start at 55 calorie, 1.9 g. of carbs Bud Select 55, and get all the way to Sam Adams Light with 119 calories and 9.6 g. of carbs if you want to stay on the lighter side of the beer world. By and large, the average light beer is going to have about 100 calories and 5 g. of carbohydrates per 12 oz. bottle. You are drinking much more by volume than you are with wines and liquor, which is also a benefit if you are looking for something to just sip most of the night.
Stay as far away as you can from liqueurs. Shun them at all costs. Liqueur examples are Godiva Chocolate, DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps, and Jaegermeister. While their calorie range varies from 70 to 130, their carbohydrate count is crazy, with most stuffing in about 10 g. of carbs. And that is in a 1.5 oz. serving. What they add to most of your drinks (outside extra minutes on the treadmill) is flavor. And while a chocolate martini or Mai Tai sound absolutely lovely, the respective 438 and 350 calories they add to your evening may not strike the right chord with your exercise regiment. A chocolate martini, from a calorie standpoint, is roughly equivalent to eating four Godiva dark chocolate truffles, or one McDonald’s double cheeseburger.
So what is a party animal to do? Here are a few tips to drink smarter while trying to shed some lbs.:
1. Have a glass of water/diet soda between each cocktail.
Not only will this help reduce how quickly you are drinking (and thus taking in more fuel to burn), it will also mitigate the hangover you will have the next day. Working out with a severe headache and slight nausea is not a good time, and if you do, it is going to be a poor work out. Just trust me on this one.
2. Drink simple cocktails. If you are a fan of the Skinny Girl Margarita, it has around 100 calories in it. Why? It has only silver tequila, a splash of orange liqueur, and lime juice. It is just over 2 oz. in the glass, but has the punch of the standard 8 oz. margarita with about one third of the calories. Most of the modern cocktails we enjoy are huge (compared to most classic cocktails), so there is much more filler. The filler is where you are getting the calories. You can also order many cocktails short, which will give you less mixer. Cut down the filler, cut down the calories. If you want more options for skinny drinks, there are quite a few here.
3. Make a drinking plan for the night, and stick to it. You have a work out regiment. When you make dinner, you know what you are going to make. When you go out for the evening, budget how many cocktails you will be having. That way you know how many calories you will be taking in and can plan some of your other activities around it.
Alcohol and dieting do not need to be mutually exclusive. You can still have some drinks with your friends while getting ready for summer. If you are looking in the area, check out Fleming’s at The Greene, who has a “5 for $6 at 7” bar menu that includes a few 100 calorie drinks. On Monday nights, Therapy Café offers a range of skinny cocktails. They are limited now to Mondays, but if demand goes up, who knows what they will do. If you know of any others, feel free to share them in the comments section below. See you on the beach!