Summer is so close we can almost taste it! For those of us who make healthy eating a priority, it’s the time of year to navigate a maze of ice cream trucks, BBQs, picnics and pool parties. What what about healthy drinking? You could stick to light beer, but why not try these healthier cocktail hacks so you can toast to your good health without running afoul of your diet? You can cut calories in cocktails and still enjoy your summer. Cheers!
1. Pick A Sparkling Wine Instead
Champagne and sparkling wine, like cava and prosecco, have fewer calories than the non-bubbly stuff. A glass will set you back 60-80 calories instead of 120-150. When trying to decide between different options, consider that “brut” varieties tend to be lower in sugar — and calories.
2. Flavor With Citrus
A splash of lemon, lime or orange adds a burst of flavor without a lot of calories. Play around with different alcohol and citrus combinations to figure out what you like. Instead of buying bottled lemon or lime juice, squeeze up a bunch and keep in a sealed container in the fridge if mixing drinks for a crew.
3. Use Club Soda As A Mixer
This calorie-free mixer pairs with almost anything. Tired of vodka soda? Try tequila with a generous squeeze of lime juice. For a festive mock-tail, mix club soda and muddled berries. Garnish with mint and a splash of lime. Add some gin to take things up a level.
4. Rethink The Spritzer
When it’s super-hot out, going slow with alcohol can help you avoid feeling melty or worse—dizzy. Bonus: less alcohol = less calories. Still need a little something to get you through your high school pal’s afternoon wedding where you’re guaranteed to run into an old squeeze? Add a little seltzer or club soda to 2 ounces your favorite rose for a pretty pink sipper that will only set you back about 50 calories. Garnish with slices of fresh strawberry.
5. Ditch The Simple Syrup
Simple syrup is basically fancy-speak for sugar water—AKA extra calories that aren’t doing you any favors. If you can’t do without sweet, try stevia or a tiny bit of honey or maple syrup. Choose whichever you’ll be the most satisfied with the least amount of.
6. Buy Fresh-Squeezed Juice
Instead of store-bought juices from the carton, upgrade your next mimosa with fresh-squeezed watermelon juice or a blend of your seasonal favorites. You can also try using fresh-made green juice as a base for a (not so) bloody Mary or even margaritas.
7. Add Flavor With Herbs
Mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender, cilantro, and ginger are just a few of the many herbs you can work into a cocktail. Aside from a rich flavor, you’ll also get a little health boost, depending on the herbs you choose. Play around with different ones to find your favorites.
Final takeaway: to cut calories in cocktails this summer, ditch the sugary mixers and focus on light, refreshing touches like citrus and fresh herbs. Always remember to drink responsibly. A great rule of thumb, whether you decide to listen to it or not, is to have a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage. Pacing yourself is important regardless of the temperature, but especially key in warmer weather.
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and writer in New York City.