Think Before You Drink

It’s been a looooong, exhausting week at work. You’ve woken up at 6 AM every day and you are more than ready for a drink. It’s finally 5 pm on Friday and you’re anxious to kick back and have an ice cold adult beverage (or 5). We all know that food has calories, but a lot of people don’t think about how many calories are in the things that they drink – especially alcohol.

If you are of legal drinking age, you have probably discovered by now that alcohol can lower your inhibitions and stimulate hunger hormones. That’s a dangerous combination that can lead to unhealthy eating choices AND overeating. But stick to your guns and make healthi(er) food & drink choices and you don’t have to throw all your hard work from the week out the window.

1) If you’re going out to eat and drinking alcohol along with a meal, you can choose drinks that are on the lighter side so you don’t consume an entire day’s worth of calories at one sitting. But first, I’ll briefly talk about the foods you can pick to stay on track. Skip the appetizer if you’re getting a meal. Getting a starter almost always leads to overeating and the majority of apps (like spinach artichoke dip & nachos) are delicious, yet loaded with fat & calories. If you must get an app, stick with something like hummus with veggies & pita and split it with friends! Avoid the fried options.

See “My Top 10 Tips for Eating Out” for more healthy suggestions when you go out to eat!

2) Next, which type of alcohol do you choose?! There are sooo many options – it can be a little overwhelming, and most of us don’t have any idea about the calorie content of our drinks, especially at restaurants. The good news is, you don’t have to completely rule out any specific kinds of alcohol, because it’s all okay in moderation; however, there are definitely some options that are going to be better for your waistline than others. I’m going to walk you through all the different types of alcohol and breakdown the calorie counts so you can make some informed drink decisions in the near future.

CHEERS TO BEER!

Craft-BeerObviously, light beers are always going to be more figure-friendly than their cousins, regular beer, IPAs, Pale Ales, and many fruity beers. To give you some perspective, I have compared calorie amounts of some beers you might like so you know what your best options are.

Name of Beer Calories per 12 oz portion
Michelob Ultra, Natural Light, Miller Lite, Busch Light ** 95
Bud Select 55 ** 55
Budweiser Select ** 64
Keystone Light ** 104
Bud Light 110
Busch 121
Rolling Rock 120
Bud Light Lime 116
Beck’s Pilsner 138
Budweiser 145
Stella Artois 153
Sam Adams Pale Ale 160
Coors 149
Blue Moon Spring Ale 161
Guinness 128
Fat Tire 160
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale !!! 175
Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale !!! 180
Pabst Blue Ribbon 153
Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy 130
Boulevard Wheat 158
Boulevard Ginger Lemon Radler 123
Boulevard Pale Ale !!! 163
Boulevard Tank 7 !!! 239

Key: !!! : try to avoid    …    ** : best options

The average non-light beer contains about 153 calories, while the average light beer contains close to 100 calories. 50 calories may not seem like a significant difference, but if you’re planning on having more than one, those numbers start to add up quick!

Now for all you vino-lovers, which wine is best?

wine-1

Type of Wine Serving size in ounces Calories
Red 5 125
White 5 121
Sweet 3.5 165
Sherry 2 75
Port 2 90
Champagne 4 84

Quick Tips:

  • Dry white wines tend to be lowest in calories, followed by blush wines, then dry reds.
  • Sweet wines tend to be highest in calories because of the high sugar content.
  • Wines with a higher alcohol content, like Zinfandel, are usually higher in calories.
  • There are now many “light” wine options available in stores that contain fewer calories than the regular versions. Keep an eye out for these!

ALCOHOL & YOUR BODY: Although alcohol is made from carbohydrate sources (such as grapes, wheat, corn, etc.), our bodies metabolize and store it as fat, plus the high calorie content can lead to weight gain and other health issues if consumed in excess. If you’re struggling to lose weight or you keep gaining weight, you may need to consider how much alcohol is in your diet. Eliminating or cutting back on alcohol can make a huge difference and could help jumpstart your weight loss.

To put it in perspective, carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram, while alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, so alcohol is more calorie dense. However, fat has 9 calories per gram, so alcohol is less calorie dense than fat.

Distilled Spirits: 

spirits

Type of Alcohol Amount in Ounces Calories per serving
Gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila 1.5 97
Brandy, cognac 1.5 98
Liqueurs 1.5 165

Examples of liqueurs: Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, RumChata, 99 Bananas, Triple Sec, Fireball & Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey. There are berry, chocolate, coffee, cream, flower, fruit, herbal, honey, nut-flavored, and whiskey liqueurs.

 

Quick Tips for Mixed Drinks: Save calories by ordering vodka with diet soda, or vodka water, instead of mixing with regular soda or juice. Add lemons/limes or bring along a flavored Mio in your purse and squirt it in your drink to add delicious flavor for zero calories!!

Specialty Cocktails: 

cocktails

I’ll take a jumbo margarita on the rocks with salt.  

Most specialty cocktails have added juices and syrups which makes them extra tasty but super sugary, and therefore, high in calories. Try to stick to just one of these drinks and then convert to light beer or a vodka water.

Type of Cocktail Amount in Ounces Calories
Martini (traditional) 2.25 124
Martini (extra dry) 2.25 139
Cosmopolitan 2.75 146
Mojito 6 143
Margarita 4 168
Pina Colada 9 490
Manhattan 3.5 164
Daquiri 2 112
Whiskey sour 3.5 160

Note: the serving sizes in this chart are probably much smaller than what you would get at a restaurant. So you can probably multiply several of the calorie contents by 2-3 to get a real idea of how much it’ll cost you!

Frozen margaritas at restaurants are often served in massive quantities, especially when they are having a drink special; a 32-ounce “jumbo” marg can weigh in at around 600 calories, while a margarita of the same size on the rocks can be almost twice that amount! (Note: amounts vary depending on the restaurant and even the bartender!)

Quick Tip for Margaritas: if the restaurant has any “skinny” options, stick with those. They are usually just as tasty, but just contain a skinny margarita mix and less sugary additives so you’ll save a ton of calories. Skinny margaritas are often around 100-150 calories; similar to the amount you would get from drinking a light beer.


So you want to get a little buzz on at home? You can either buy some of the lower calorie beverages I mentioned above, OR you can create some yummy drink concoctions of your own! I searched for some skinny drink recipes to help you let loose AND stay on track at the same time 😉

First off, you can purchase skinny margarita mix at the store, so that’s a great place to start if you’re looking to get down on some margs. Pictured below is my personal favorite because it’s lighter than the regular stuff AND the alcohol is already mixed in! I love this Berry Margarita on the rocks or blended up with some ice! So refreshing on a hot summer night. : )

jose-cuervo-lightmargarita-wildberry

At-Home Skinny Drink Recipes

Skinny Sangria

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine of choice
  • 1-2 cups of fresh fruit such as: sliced strawberries, pineapple chunks, sliced oranges, blackberries
  • 16.9 oz bottle of Sprite Zero
  • 1/4 cup Pomegranate Vodka (optional; regular vodka would work a
    lso)
  • Ice
  • Fruit for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Add fruit, wine and vodka to a pitcher and stir.
  2. Chill for 4-6 hours or overnight
  3. Mix in Sprite Zero before serving.
  4. Fill glasses with ice, pour the sangria, and garnish with fruit of choice.
  5. Drink up!

Skinny-Sangria-Recipe

Lean-Ya Colada (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup vanilla flavored coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp light agave nectar (or honey)
  • 1.5 oz light rum

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. Serve with a slice of fresh pineapple and other fruits like a cherry or strawberry if you’re feelin’ fancy. ; )

Pina Colada

Slim Strawberry Daiquiri (serves 1) 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 cup diet cranberry juice
  • 1/2 tsp light agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 2 oz light rum

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. THAT’S IT!

strawberry-daquiri

Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl Margarita (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Clear Premium Tequila
  • Splash of orange liquor
  • Juice of 4 fresh lime wedges
  • Splash of Triple Sec

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients over a glass of ice and garnish with a lime wedge.

skinnygirl-margarita-150x200

Summer Peach

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
  • 4 oz. Peach Tea
  • Peach slice for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine X-Rated Fusion Liqueur, peach tea, and shake vigorously.
  2. Strain into an ice cube filled glass and garnish with peach slice.

X-Rated-Summer-Peach

I hope this post was helpful for those of you who were curious (or completely unaware) about the calorie content of your favorite drinks. Like I said, you don’t have to cut out alcohol completely to lose/maintain weight, but now you can make better decisions next time you hit happy hour. Or host your own happy hour at home with light beers and skinny cocktails! Party on, party people.


Disclaimer: I found calorie amounts for alcohol on various sites on the Internet, all of which appeared to be reliable sources, however, they may not all be 100% accurate. Calorie amounts in mixed drinks and cocktails will also vary depending on the restaurant. Check Nutrition Labels on packages for accuracy before drinking.

Rethinking Drinking Calorie Calculator

On the National Institute of Health’s website (link above), you can calculate how many calories you consume per week from alcohol by typing in the number of drinks you have. This might be an eye opener and give you an idea of where you need to make some changes!

Get Drunk Not Fat is another great website that lists calorie amounts of pretty much every type of alcohol you can imagine. Head to their site if you’re curious about any specific beverages that I didn’t include.


LET’S TALK GUAC.

As a dietitian, I am a little ashamed to admit that prior to this past weekend, I had NEVER made anything using an avocado. There are several reasons for this. 1) I have always been a little intimidated by them; they look a little strange, I had never cut into one before, plus I didn’t know how to tell if they were ripe or not. (Thankfully, Google helped me answer those questions.) And 2) I used to have it in my mind that I didn’t like avocados, but I never really gave them a chance. It’s kinda like when you’re a little kid and you’re convinced that you hate green beans, even though you haven’t even tried them. Well, time went on and I guess I was just never forced to eat avocados… so I didn’t. But they are so dang popular right now, so I was determined to make something that I was familiar with and knew I would like: guacamole. You can’t go wrong with chips and any kind of dip, right? I have mostly just had the guac from Chipotle so I knew what I should expect mine to taste like. I found several similar recipes and since I was a “guacamole virgin”, I just went with the one that I thought looked/sounded best. However, I really want to make this again and make some changes to spice it up a little bit, like adding some jalapenos and maybe some extra garlic and spices. But for now, this version was great and I think you’ll really like it too! (Current recipe courtesy of Cooking Classy – my own version to come eventually 🙂 )

Fresh Homemade Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe Hass avocados, scooped from peel
  • 1.5 Tbsp fresh lime juice (I used the juice from 1 whole lime, which was more than 1.5 T)
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1 large Roma tomato, seeds and pulp removed then diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1-3 pinches cayenne pepper, optional (I ended up doing about 10-12 shakes of our little jar of cayenne pepper. I liked the spice and thought it could use the extra flavor.)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

*Just a couple side notes: I wish I would’ve used 2-3 cloves of garlic instead, and I did not add any cilantro. Sometimes I feel like the taste of cilantro can be too overpowering (and some people don’t like it) so I didn’t want to add it this time, but next time I probably will add the 2 tbsp to see how it affects the overall flavor.

IMG_2922
Not pictured: cilantro and cayenne pepper. Also, this jalapeño pepper was not harmed in the making of this guacamole, but next time it will be. 🙂

IMG_2924

I feel like I have to tell you this short story because it was an important part of my first avocado/guacamole making experience. I got 4 avocados from the grocery store based on what I read online. “If it yields to gentle pressure, then it’s ripe and ready to eat.” Well, apparently I’m not a good judge of this, because I came home, cut them all open and they were ALL ROTTEN. Imagine my disappointment. Luckily, I called Price Chopper and they let me come exchange my yucky avocados for some new, perfectly ripened ones. On my second trip, I wasn’t messing around. I asked for a produce manager to help me choose avocados that she thought would be ripe, but not too ripe. Many of the avocados that were out on display were way too soft and most likely rotten, so she went to the back to retrieve some perfect avocados for me. I came home, cut them open, and they were all beautifully green inside! Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re not sure! When you’re experimenting with new foods, it’s important to get some guidance so you don’t wind up at home with 4 spoiled avocados (or other unfamiliar rotten food)! Silly me.

Instructions:

  1. Partially mash avocados with a fork in a large bowl, squeeze limejuice over the top and continue to mash to reach desired consistency.

IMG_2925

IMG_2926
This veggie chopper is a life saver; no crying from cutting onions for me!

IMG_2929

2. Add chopped red onions to avocado mixture along with diced tomato, garlic, cilantro, cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

IMG_29303. Serve with tortilla chips or alongside Mexican dishes.

IMG_2932 IMG_2931

IMG_2938

Now go throw yourselves a little fiesta with some skinny margaritas and homemade guacamole! 🙂

I did this post about skinny alcoholic beverages because I got a request from a friend (and because I love a nice yummy drink as well 🙂 ). If there is anything specific that you’d like to see me write about, send me a quick message and I’ll definitely try to work it into my future posts. I want to post things that you all care about and want to see, so I love getting topic & recipe requests! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

Have a great rest of the week!

eat well. live well. be happy.

Shanna, RDN

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