‘Tis the season for waterside drinks … of the hard kind. After all, I’m sure most of us can’t think of a more iconic visual of summer than enjoying a nice, icy beer in the sand beside the waves.
However, you may be torn between grabbing a cold one and sticking to your clean regime to maintain your progress toward your goals. This is totally understandable, since most alcohol choices are calorie and sugar bombs – not exactly conductive to staying on track.
But before you despair, I have good news: there are exceptions to the dirty alcohol rule. Plenty, in fact! These are typically drinks that feature less “flavorings,” (which are usually artificial) like colorful margaritas and blended drinks, as well as no added sugars.
Check out the list of these options below that will help you drink smarter to avoid undoing any gains you’ve made over the winter and spring months.
Cleanest Alcohol Choices
First, a few indicators to look for on a menu as to whether a drink choice may be “dirty” so you know what to avoid:
• Flavored mixed cocktails, which typically contain sugary syrups to enhance flavor, as well as possibly artificial food dyes and high-fructose corn syrup. This includes margaritas and blended drinks.
• Flavored martinis, like espresso or chocolate martinis, which can contain hefty sugars and flavorings similar to blended drinks.
• Flavored shots, which tend to rack up calories pretty quickly at 70-150 calories a shot.
1. Craft Beers
Why craft? In the same way mass-produced, processed foods are often of lower quality than local alternatives made with fresh ingredients, beer can also be of higher quality when produced in smaller batches locally. Not to mention, craft beer labels usually mention key ingredients and conscious brewing processes on their labels, which can make you feel good about choosing them.
Another benefit to factor in is that dark brewed craft beers may contain less sugar, and you may even be able to find some labeled with “no artificial coloring,” so you can be sure you’re drinking cleaner.
Also, don’t hesitate to check for gluten-free beers (they’re getting more popular lately) and even kombucha beer, which could give you a dose of probiotics with your brew.
2. Red Wine
You’ve probably heard red wine is one of the healthiest alcohols, and for good reason. Not only is red wine “pure” in the sense that it’s produced strictly from grapes, but it is also rich in antioxidants – specifically reservatrol, which is revered for its anti-aging properties. If you can find a glass of organic red, even better!
Another benefit of red wine is its sip factor. Instead of downing 100 calories in a shot, it normally takes a good 20 minutes or more to linger over a glass, which could keep your calories down for the long haul.
Champagne is similar to red wine: it contains a great dose of antioxidants from white grapes, while also hitting your mouth with a bubbly texture reminiscent of a beer.
Another benefit? Champagne typically comes in a “flute” glass, which is more narrow than even a wine glass. This keeps calories low and encourages sipping.
4. Vodka and Soda
Many people claim vodka and soda is their hard liquor of choice for avoiding calories, since soda water is very low in calories (yet still bubbly and pleasant) and vodka is a pure spirit which is diluted.
This may be your choice if you want something stronger than wine or champagne, but still clean. Add several dashes of lime for the lowest calorie flavor option.
5. Gin and Tonic
Gin and tonic is another low-calorie favorite, and is also versatile; if you don’t care for tonic water, swap for soda water, add lime or lemon, add a sprig of rosemary, etc. Gin has a pretty mild flavor, so this one can even be dressed up with orange slices or cucumber to get in some nutrients to the party.
6. Tequila with Lime
If you’re really craving a shot, tequila (believe it or not) may be one of your better choices. At 69 calories a shot, you won’t totally break the calorie bank. However, you can also dilute tequila and add some lime for flavor, creating your own healthy tequila mocktail.
A few things that will help mitigate the potentially negative effects of drinking (and should definitely help with a hangover as well):
• Water. And more water. Stay as hydrated as possible while drinking.
• Intermittent fast the day of, or after. Many people do extended fasts to give their digestive system to “clean up,” so you can do the same for your liver.
• Use your drink day as a “refeed” day. Some people eat more carbs on refeed days to refeul glycogen stores – if you drink on this day, you can add the extra carbs from drinking to the refeed regime.
• Drink dandelion tea after if you’re hungover. Dandelion can help support flushing your liver and blood.
Above all, treat drinking as a reasonable indulgence, rather than a wild binge, and you’ll be perfectly “safe” with these choices at a summer gathering.