- Summer is the season for many people to take advantage of warm weather and sunshine by enjoying an adult beverage outdoors (while social distancing, of course).
- Experts say that alcoholic drinks can be enjoyed in moderation without derailing your nutrition goals.
- Healthier options include drinks without added sugars or syrups, using fresh fruit, veggies or herbs for flavour instead, and being mindful of serving sizes.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
With summer in full swing, it’s peak season for many people to enjoy refreshing alcoholic beverages of all kinds on patios, beaches or boats, even in the midst of a pandemic.
But, as anyone who’s suffered a recent hangover can attest, too much of a good thing can wreak havoc on your nutrition and health goals.
According to nutritionists, it doesn’t have to – there are healthier options for summer indulgence if you’re mindful of what’s in your drink and how much you consume.
Staying hydrated, avoiding too much sugar and other additives in mixers, and including flavorful options like fresh fruit, citrus and herbs can help you enjoy the best of summer sipping without the setbacks.
Even a shot contains calories, so stop your hunt for ‘low-calorie’ drinks
It’s a common misconception that since straight alcohol doesn’t contain carbohydrates, a straight shot is low-calorie, according to Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian-nutritionist, author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table.
“Although blacklisted for decades, carbs are not the only source of calories to consider,” Taub-Dix told Insider.
Alcohol itself has about 7 calories per gram, meaning that a standard shot or serving can have about 100 calories.
Avoid topping up your drinks before you’ve finished so you can keep count
The key to indulging without the side effects is to drink in moderation. It saves you calories and sugar from the drinks themselves, and the snacks we gravitate towards after a few.
It’s easy to unwittingly drink more than you planned if you’ve got a large cocktail, or you’re at an event, but it’s a good idea to keep count.
“It’s important to define what a drink is, because most people end up consuming more than that. You can kind of lose sight of the amount of alcohol you consume and it can quickly add up,” Joy Dubost, registered dietitian, food scientist, and beer steward for the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, told Insider.
One serving of alcohol is typically equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor – current guidelines suggest no more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day.
Keeping count will also help you curb the hangover which could derail your workout and dietary plans the day after.
Swap Piña Colada for a fruit-filled sangria
In addition to the calories in alcohol itself, mixers can also contribute to a huge calorie load when you’re drinking, with a large amount of sugar and even fat-heavy mix-ins like heavy cream or coconut.
“A pail-sized Piña Colada at poolside might provide more calories than a whole meal,” Taub-Dix said.
Healthier options without sacrificing flavour or style include sparkling waters, herbal infusions (such as mint, basil, and more), citrus fruits or juices, and other fresh pureed fruits.
In fact, some of these additions can actually provide some nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
Taub-Dix recommends daiquiris made with fresh pureed strawberries or a fruit-filled sangria.
And some types of alcohol naturally contain healthful compounds – wine contains several known antioxidants, for examples, and beer can contain many of the same nutrients as the grains used to brew it, according to Dubost.
Better to have one sugary drink you enjoy than multiple ‘healthy’ ones
However, most people drink alcohol to enjoy themselves, not for the health benefits.
It can be better to have just one serving of something you’ll really enjoy, even a sugary fruit drink or a heftier beer, if you take the time to savour it, Dubost explained. That can be a more satisfying experience than having several less substitutes like diet cocktails or light beers.
“It’s about knowing who you are as a drinker. If you know you don’t enjoy light beer, have a regular beer, enjoy it, don’t just gulp it down,” she said.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated
Finally, as a general rule, both Dubost and Taub-Dix recommend matching each serving of alcohol you drink with a full glass of water before starting the next round.
Having a non-alcoholic beverage between drinks can not only keep you hydrated but also moderate the pace of your drinking throughout the night to help you avoid overindulgence.
Similarly, include lots of ice when you imbibe – not only does it keep your drinks cold, but it will also help keep you hydrated and make your drink last longer and taste stronger without adding more booze or mixers.
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