When I was asked to write my first guest blog for Baltimore STYLE, it made me want to celebrate! That’s exactly how you might feel heading into this sweet (and, sadly, final) holiday weekend of summer, when many folks will be tempted to throw moderation out the window and live it up at the beach, the bars or a big Labor Day bash. Before you take another sip of that piña colada, you might want to find out exactly what you are drinking so that you aren’t packing on the pounds as well.
Moderate alcohol consumption can be a component of a healthy diet, but many cocktails are loaded with sugar and calories. For women, moderate consumption means up to one drink per day and two drinks per day for men. One standard drink equals 12 fl. oz. of regular beer, 5 fl. oz. of table wine, and 1.5 fl. oz. of 80-proof distilled spirits.
For people trying to lose weight, it can be a challenge without completely forgoing alcohol. For starters, calories from alcoholic beverages offer little to no nutritional value. Plus, alcohol consumption can decrease inhibitions, which lessens resistance to tempting high-calorie foods. Finally, your body cannot store alcohol and has to metabolize it right away, causing carbs and fat to be stored instead of used as fuel, which can lead to weight gain.
But before you throw in the proverbial beach towel on alcoholic beverages, check out our list of “Dos & Don’ts” so you can indulge a little—just this once—without a significant impact on your waistline.
Drink This: Wine Spritzer. Adding water or club soda to a drink greatly reduces its number of calories. A wine spritzer combines equal parts wine and club soda to cut the calorie count. A wine spritzer is typically less than 100 calories per 5 oz. glass. Regular wine, which is still a good option for a low-calorie beverage, has approximately 125 calories per 5 oz. glass.
Not That: Sangria. Sangria is generally a combination of wine, flavored liquer, sugary simple syrup or table sugar, fruit juice and chunks of fruit. While the berries and blood oranges may trick you into thinking that this drink is a healthy option, the added fruit juice and simple syrup or table sugar leads to a lot of extra calories and sugar. Instead of ordering sangria from the bar, make your own low-calorie version at home with a combination of fresh fruit, wine, low-calorie orange juice and calorie-free flavored seltzer water.
Drink This: Light Beer. Light beer has between 60 to 140 calories in a 12 oz. serving. Most brands contain a similar amount of alcohol as regular beer but with fewer carbohydrates and calories.
Not That: High Alcohol Craft Beer. Craft beer is often higher in alcohol and calories than regular beer. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which contains 10 percent alcohol by volume, also contains 320 calories per bottle; and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA packs 450 calories into each bottle. That’s one drink for the amount of calories in a whole meal!
Drink This: Vodka & Club Soda. Pure alcohol, such as vodka, does not have any carbohydrates, protein or fat. Pure alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and mixed with calorie-free or low-calorie drinks such as club soda with lemon or lime, these drinks remain a low-calorie option.
Not That: Vodka Cranberry. While vodka on its own is relatively low in calories, mixers such as red bull, high-calorie soda and juices are higher in sugar and calories. Adding cranberry juice can more than triple the calorie count in your cup.
Drink This: Skinny Margarita. Order a skinny margarita on the rocks by asking for 2 oz. of silver tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice, and a splash of orange triple sec. This drink comes in at around 140 calories, compared to a regular margarita prepared with pre-made margarita mix that can run upwards of 200 calories.
Not That: Frozen Margarita. Frozen, blended margaritas served at restaurants and bars pack between 500 and 700 calories in each glass. One of the reasons for its high-calorie count is the typical 32 oz. serving size. Frozen margaritas also contain around 150 grams of sugar and 80 grams of sodium.
Drink This: Mojito. A mojito can be modified to have lower sugar content by requesting half of the simple syrup that is typically used. Cutting back on the sugar can cut out nearly 40 calories from this drink. A shot of rum is about 100 calories. Other ingredients in mojitos (mint, lime, and soda water) are all naturally low-calorie. Order or prepare this with lots of ice, which makes the drink appear larger and can make it last longer without adding extra calories.
Not That: Piña Colada. Similar to margaritas, frozen piña coladas are high in calories. Most of the calories come from the cream of coconut, which contribute to the drinks’ nearly 10 grams of fat. A regular sized piña colada from a restaurant or bar has over 400 calories.
Bonus: For a refreshing and fun non-alcoholic treat, try these Skinny Medifast Mocktails, which are a healthy alternative to high calorie and sugar-filled alcoholic beverages!
Charlotte Martin, RDN, LDN, is a corporate dietitian at Medifast and food enthusiast. She received her Bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and completed her dietetic internship through the University of Maryland Medical Center. When she’s not thinking about food, cooking food, or eating food, she’s blogging about it! She’d choose roaming the aisles of Wegmans over DSW any day.