The first rule of drinking on a diet is: Don’t. Surely you’ve heard that Americans get way too many calories – and nutritionally empty calories at that – from alcohol.
But the second rule of drinking on a diet is that since you probably will ignore Rule No. 1, find a way to enjoy alcohol without letting it swamp your healthy intentions. Here are a few suggestions on how to go about that.
Think before you drink. You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely for weight control, says Andrea Giancoli, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. But you do have to fit it into your calorie limit. Making that work means knowing the calorie counts of what you drink.
For women, federal health guidelines recommend no more than one drink a day (5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of liquor or a 12-ounce beer). For men the limit is two drinks. Though the numbers can vary, most wines sport about 120 calories per serving. Most hard liquors, such as gin and vodka, have about 100 calories per serving. A regular beer has a bit more than 150 calories, while a light beer has about 100.
It can take some of the spontaneity out of an evening, but if you’re planning to drink it’s best to plan ahead, tally the calories and budget accordingly.
Ice is nice. When Lisa McRee, a former Good Morning America co-anchor who now publishes the popular recipe and diet tip site The Skinny, wants to enjoy her favorite chardonnay she slips an ice cube or two into the glass. That makes the drink last longer and also dilutes the alcohol.
Get on the fresh express.
Jacques Bezuidenhout, the master mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, has an easy tip for trimming calories from drinks: Keep it simple.
Using better ingredients and fresh juice means you need to add less sugar or liqueurs to balance out the cocktail.
He recommends using sweeteners such as agave nectar or honey. His diet cocktail? A gin martini, no mixers required.
And one more tip – buy smaller glassware for your home. If you are constantly trying to fill a 12-ounce martini glass or 14-ounce highball with a cocktail of any kind, your sugar levels and spirit levels will go up, Bezuidenout says.
Flavor without fear. Look for no- and low-calorie ways to add flavor to your cocktails. Diet sodas (including diet tonic water) are an obvious choice. But many companies also offer low-sugar varieties of juices, such as cranberry.