Cutting the Calories Out of Cocktails
Happy hour can be healthy hour if you stick with lighter, leaner libations.
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Taming the Alcohol
So what’s the health-conscious person to drink? There are plenty of delicious choices, if you know what to look for.
As a rule of thumb, 4-ounces of wine, a 12-ounce bottle of light beer and 1 ½ ounces of many types of alcohol are all about 100 calories. Upgrade from light beer to a thick, hoppy microbrew and you will double or triple the calories in that 12-ounce beer, Bianchi warns, and many people go for those 16- or 20-ounce servings of draft beer.
Larger cocktails (or generous bartenders) can mean more liquor in a drink, upping the calories. And when we imbibe at home, we tend to serve ourselves even larger portions than we do at a restaurant, say, an 8-ounce glass of wine or three ounces of alcohol in that mixed drink.
While you might think that choosing light beer is the solution, not all light beers are the same. Popular Michelob Ultra has 96 calories, while Budweiser’s Select 55 has, well, 55 calories. If light beers don’t appeal, there are other options. One of the lowest calorie, non-light beers is Guinness Stout at 80 calories a pint, Holmes says. “IPAs are really big right now, but if you stick to pale ales, pilsners or basic stouts, you will cut the calories in half,” he adds.
Don’t be fooled by the popular misconception that alcohols that are lighter in color are also lighter in calories. Unless you go for one of the newer, lower calorie liquors, 1 ½ ounces of unflavored 80-proof vodka, rum, tequila or whiskey all end up being roughly 100 calories. Higher proof liquors are higher in calories.
Another problem arises when you opt for some of the flavored liquors or creamy liqueurs. Trendy RumChata packs 140 calories in 1 ½ ounces. Order 3 ounces of it over ice and you’re quaffing nearly 300 calories in one drink.
You can prepare for a night out by checking the calorie count of wines, beers and liquors online. Some brands include it on their website. You can get estimates for some others at CalorieKing.com.