By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Let’s be honest: Sometimes we’d all like to be able to have a drink or two without worrying about the calories and sugar. But for most of us, drinking fruity, tasty beverages (both alcoholic and even non-alcoholic) is accompanied by the inevitable few pounds of weight that we gain as a result – and also the stress and guilt from indulging.
However, like most things it’s not all or nothing. If we can be careful to make good choices and consume in moderation, we can stay healthy and have fun with our beverage choices (especially in this summer heat!).
To help you navigate your cocktails, I’ve outlined a few tips to keep in mind while drinking — both related to the beverage itself and also to the food that can accompany the drinks. Follow these six tips to help you drink without gaining weight:
This is rule number one because if we’re not satisfied with our choices (similar to when we eat) we can end up over-consuming due to lack of satiety. This goes for food and drinks too — choose the most satisfying option and the one you want most, and then try to stick to a single serving. If you really want to have a certain cocktail (within reason), the light beer likely won’t suffice.
Though they’re liquid calories, they’re not “free” calories. It’s easy to forget to factor them into your daily total, but these calories count just as much as the calories from a piece of chocolate cake would. While I don’t want you to necessarily carry around a scale and measure your alcohol, being aware of the potential calories in your beverage can help keep your weight in check. The important message is to factor these drinks into your total daily calories whenever consuming alcohol.
Pre-made mixers are oh-so-delicious but are also often loaded with both real and artificial sweeteners and a lot of other stuff — like chemicals, colors and lots of calories. Instead of indulging in calories from the mixers, learn to make drinks lighter and more simply but choosing drinks like this one: a “skinny” margarita. Here’s the recipe recipe: 1 ½ oz tequila, 3 tbsp lime juice, 2 tsp agave, lime wedge for garnish.
They’re so appealing when we drink alcohol, but the food that we end up eating along with our cocktails can be the most detrimental part of the whole equation. Without really thinking, we can order food choices that are much higher in calories than we may have expected. The best way to prevent over-consuming calories in places we didn’t expect is to plan ahead what you’ll order, and/or order before you begin to drink. This way you can be more calculated in what you order and avoid having your choices swayed as alcohol is consumed.
We can all end up a little hungrier when we drink. Make sure to fill up on veggies, since they can help take up space in your stomach, slow down digestion and keep you feeling fuller for longer, which may help you stay away from other less-desirable choices. Any veggies are fair game, but raw ones can typically take up more space and make you feel fuller than cooked ones. (When cooked, the fiber structure can break down a little too, which is why cooked veggies can shrink in size). Start with a salad (or just order a salad as your main dish), order a side of veggies or a veggie-based appetizer dish like crudités.
We’re all different, but there are often drinks that make some of us hungrier than others. It’s important to know which drinks do this for you so that you can be aware of the effects of consumption. Make sure to drink a glass of water along with each drink, and also try to minimize the number of drinks you have that are of the type that make you feel hungrier.
Try this Beet-ini recipe for a juice-based alcoholic (or non-alcoholic depending on preference) indulgence!