Cookies get all the attention when it comes to holiday gluttony, but there’s another festive treat that can lead to unwanted winter padding: the cocktail. It’s officially party season, and if you’re trying to keep it healthy — or at least healthier — while you celebrate, selecting holiday cocktails can be stressful. In fact, cocktail confusion is one of our clients’ biggest complaints: They tell us that they know to stay away from those fruity, sugary mixed drinks, but other alcoholic options trip them up.
Follow these tips to get in the, um, spirit without undoing all those reps and runs:
Have a pre party
Whether this first “party” is at your house, the office, or in the car on the way to your seasonal soiree, its purpose is the same: to fuel up for the main event. If you show up to a party with an empty stomach, you’ll feel the alcohol faster, which means you’ll end up drinking more and likely eating more as well — thank you, missing inhibitions! Our favorite pre-party options: veggies and tea. Tea is warm and soothing, and will take the edge off your hunger. It also contains an amino acid called theanine, which has been shown to produce a mental calmness and alertness that can help you make rational decisions (like declining your fourth pig in a blanket) at the party. Meanwhile, munching on veggies will fill you up with fiber, so the cocktails won’t hit your system as quickly.
Know your mixers
Classic cocktails like Rum and Coke, Gin and Tonic, and Vodka Cranberry may seem harmless, but they all have one problem in common: their mixers are comprised mostly of sugar. Most of the calories in alcoholic beverages come from the alcohol itself, so no need to jack up your drink’s calorie count with added sugars. Try these solutions for smarter spirits:
Use seltzer, not tonic, as a base for your low-cal cocktail. It’s calorie-free and the bubbles make for a fun, festive drink. You can also add healthy garnishes so you don’t miss out on flavor. Try fresh mint leaves or wedges of orange, lemon, or lime.
Opt for light cranberry juice, which is usually just a watered-down version of the classic, to get a similar flavor with fewer calories.
Order your drink on the rocks. The ice takes up space that would otherwise be filled with liquid calories.
If you prefer standard fruit juice, request just a small splash of your favorite variety along with some seltzer.
Be aware of portion inflation
Gone are the days when bartenders served a standard 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or a mere 1.5 ounces (a shot) of liquor. Today’s glasses are often super-sized, which means two goblets of vino may equal nearly half a bottle! Bartenders can also be heavy handed, serving you up to 3 ounces of alcohol in your mixed drink, which means you’re downing about 200 calories of booze instead of 100. Your calorie-saving solution? Count each alcoholic drink as two servings. So, if you’re allowing yourself to splurge one night with four cocktails, you’d be wise to draw the line at two.
And if you do end up overdoing the beverages (or the food!) this season, check out The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure which contains a 10-Day Weight Loss Jumpstart and Detox Plan to flush toxins, halt holiday overeating, and get you back on your healthy track fast.
Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse “Lyssie” Lakatos — otherwise known as the Nutrition Twins — are registered dietitians, certified personal trainers, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty.