To be completely honest, I put this article together based on my own research for myself, because one my New Year’s resolutions is to start taking my nutrition more seriously. I hang out with friends almost every weekend and this usually entails going to a restaurant and having beers. I don’t drink all that much anyway, but when I do, I want to make healthier choices.
Probably the most common alcoholic beverage around, beer actually has quite a few healthy benefits, despite what many people think. Beer contains many healthy vitamins, fiber, and readily absorbed antioxidants and minerals, according to studies. And it doesn’t have any fat, salt or cholesterol and has much less sugar as compared to other beverages. The problem is that beer contains lots of empty calories and many people don’t drink just one beer.
Light beers contain anywhere from 50-100 calories per 12 oz. while other beers range anywhere from 150 calories to upwards of 300. That’s a lot of useless calories to put into your body. If you choose to drink beer, go for the ultra-light variety. It won’t get you buzzed as fast, but at least you can still drink with friends. If you’re wondering how many calories are in your favorite beer, check out this handy beer calorie chart.
Wine and Champagne
Most people have already heard that one glass of red wine a day can be healthy for the heart. This is because it contains the resveratrol, which is an antioxidant that studies have shown can reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots in the arteries. Studies have also shown that red wine can protect the brain from damage after a stroke. Those are great benefits, but just like with beer, it needs to be taken in moderation. One glass of red wine typically has about 80 calories.
Another option when drinking wine is to turn it into a spritzer. Whatever wine you have handy – white wine, red wine, zinfandels – cut them in half with club soda and you’ll reduce the calories by quite a bit. One word of advice; avoid wine coolers. They are processed and usually contain lots of calories. Something you might not have expected though is that the very popular boxed wine, Franzia white wine, only has 90 calories.
For special occasions, such as New Years Eve, weddings and wild trips to Vegas, you might also find yourself drinking champagne. Champagne is actually very similar to wine in terms of calories, one glass (or about 5 oz.) contains around 100 calories.
If you’re simply looking for a low-calorie alcoholic beverage, you might consider picking up some hard cider. Hard cider often has lower calories than even the lightest of beers. And you can even find many hard ciders with higher alcohol content than beer too.
Many people think the healthiest choices are straight up shots. This isn’t always true because many hard liquors contains lots of sugar, fat and calories. This depends on the type of alcohol of course. “Spirits” such as vodka, whiskey and rum contain about 100 calories per shot and are the best choices if you’re looking to do shots.
Generally, you can stick to these guidelines:
- 80 proof liquor has 100 calories in a 1.5 oz. shot
- 100 proof liquor has 124 calories in a 1.5 oz. shot
Mixed drinks are usually the worst choices because they are often made using lots of sweeteners such as grenadine (20 cals. x 1 tsp.) or other sugary liqueurs such as Kahlua (91 cals. x 1 oz.) and midori (80 cals. x 1 oz.). If you choose to go with a mixed drink, choose drinks that are simple – two or three ingredients only and when mixing with soda’s, use diet versions.
Here are several mixed drinks that won’t wreak havoc on your diet:
- Rum and Diet Coke
- Bacardi Limon and diet 7-up
- Bloody Mary (lots of vitamins but also kinda high in sodium)
- Vodka (or Gin) and Diet Tonic
- Vodka Cranberry
- Sugar Free Red Bull & Vodka
- Mimosa – Minute Maid Light Orange Juice and Champagne (3 oz.)
Drinks to Avoid
During the holidays, many of us like to drink festive beverages, but these are often the worst. A spiked eggnog has approximately 391 calories, while drinks such as Irish cream liqueur can have around 407 calories in only 4 oz. That’s as many calories as one full meal in just one drink.
Here are a few more examples of some drinks you should avoid.
- Martinis – 400-500 calories
- Margaritas – 200-800 calories
- Smirnoff Ice (12 oz.) – 241 calories
- Mike’s Hard Lemonade (12 oz.) – 220 calories
- Bartles & Jaymes (12 oz.) – 190 calories
- Long Island Ice Tea – Up to 780 calories
I think the real key takeaway here is that to drink alcohol and still maintain a healthy diet, is moderation. Drinking any alcohol in excess, no matter what your drink of choice is, can eventually lead to weight gain, heart problems, liver problems, high blood pressure and other serious health issues.