The Simple Guide To Healthier Cocktails This Holiday Season

Alcohol calories don't just disappear with your drink...they add up. To save your waistline around the already-indulgent holidays (or any time of year), here's a guide on how to sip smarter.

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The holidays are a seriously tempting time. Around every corner, you’ll find comfort foods, seasonal desserts, hearty soups, and sugary coffee beverages (“coffee” used loosely). Basically, you need blinders! And we haven’t even got to the alcohol yet. Thankfully, we can help in that department. While you’ve likely seen a million guides to eating smarter through the winter, I want you to think about sipping smarter, too. Let’s pack as many benefits as possible in your cup (as often as possible), arm you with some low-cal drink orders, and go over other odds and ends you need to know about alcohol. Simple, straightforward, honest—let’s get real before you say “bottoms up.”

Why Wine?

Moderate wine consumption is a staple of the Mediterranean diet for a reason: It carries health benefits! Researchers have found that red wine especially may protect your heart, keep blood vessels healthy and increase the concentration of good cholesterol (LDL). This might be due to wine’s high antioxidant level, specifically resveratrol. So, sip smart by choosing wine as your drink. If you want to lighten up further and add a sizzle-pop of carbonation, add seltzer or soda for a wine spritzer.

Why Water?

Every time you order a drink, you should also order a water for the other hand—and not just to slow yourself down, save calories, and prevent a hangover, all of which are still important. When you drink, alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so it’ll be much harder to resist the fatty foods at the party’s buffet. In addition, research shows alcohol may make the brain more sensitive to food aromas, causing you to consume more than you would normally. (Have I convinced you yet?) If that’s not enough, alcohol dehydrates you, so you need to replenish with H20. The next morning, you’ll thank your lucky stars you’re not dealing with bloat, blotchy skin, and puffy eyes. Keep your head, and keep a water in hand.

A Word on Mixers

Cocktails, yay! Especially around the holidays, it’s okay to want to enjoy yourself. Alcohol itself isn’t that caloric, but rather the mixers that pack in the sugar and calories. When possible, try to mix your drink with low-calorie and low-sugar mixers—think a splash of juice, diet sodas or club soda. Punch up drinks with fruit for flavor, muddled mint or cucumber, ginger, or squeezes of lemon and lime. Skip the simple syrup and skip the menu when possible. Although those cocktails look enticing, most will tack on more empty calories than you ideally want.

On Seltzer, Soda, and Tonic

At the bar, there are several different fizzy drinks that we typically add to liquors like vodka and gin. Seltzer water, club soda, tonic water and mineral water all create similar beverages… However, if you want to keep your calorie total down, stick to any besides the tonic water. Just like a soft drink, it contains calories: roughly 130 for 12 ounces. The other three do not. If tonic tastes better to you, make sure you add the calories into your daily total—or choose club soda and squeeze a lime into the drink to up the flavor factor. You’ll hardly know the difference.

10 Drinks to Have in Your Back Pocket

Don’t know what to order? If you want to sip smart wherever you go, you should always have a few modest drinks in mind. Aim for 200 calories maximum (totals below are approximate). Wine, 125-150 calories If you like it, wine should forever be your go-to option. Whether you’re ordering white or red, a standard pour shouldn’t top a waistline-friendly 150 calories. Vodka & Diet Cran, 140 calories The sugars in regular cranberry can rack up the calories, so try diet cranberry as your mixer. Gin & Soda With Lime, 85 calories You can also substitute vodka here for about the same number of calories. However, Two James Gin with club soda and a squeeze of lime might just change your life… Spiced Rum & Diet Coke, 85 calories The classic cocktail gets a 100-less-calorie makeover by subbing diet coke. If you want punchy flavor, try spiced rum. Sea Breeze, 115 calories Pour up one of these cocktails by combining vodka, cranberry, and grapefruit juices. Since the grapefruit juice contains fewer calories than cranberry, ask your bartender to go heavier on the grapefruit and lighter on the cran. Mojito, 150 calories The pure flavors here rock your taste buds, but not the scale. You can feel good about the mint, lime, soda water and rum, and ask the bartender to only add a splash of simple syrup. Cosmopolitan, 200 calories Since the calorie total can vary, request this drink specifically with vodka, cranberry juice, and a squeeze of lime. Substitute the club soda for the triple sec if you want a lighter version. Gimlet, 100 calories Keep it simple! With just gin and some sweetened lime juice, there aren’t a bunch of mixers to rack up the sugar and calories. Flavored Vodka on the Rocks, 80 calories There are a ton of flavored vodkas out there, so choose one that tickles your fancy — like vanilla, yum. Ask the bartender to add fresh fruit for flavor if available, and cut with soda or seltzer water if you don’t want straight-up liquor. Classic Martini, 160 calories Typically made with gin or vodka and vermouth with an olive garnish, this classic cocktail should remain a staple in your skinny sips at only 160 calories.

A Healthy Holiday Cocktail to Make at Home

If you want to wow party guests with a yummy drink, let me suggest whipping up holiday sangria. Using wine as your base, simply infuse the drink with seasonal fruit and spices for lots of flavor and just a few calories. You can use a tried-and-true recipe like this Christmas Sangria, or simply make to your liking. Combine fruits like cranberries, pomegranates, apples and oranges to white or red wine, along with cinnamon sticks, mint, rosemary sprigs for garnish. Grab a pal, taste test and find your signature sangria recipe.

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