Many of us like to enjoy alcohol from time to time, and imbibing is often expected at particular social gatherings. But when you’re out with friends and having fun, it can be easy to overlook the amount of calories you’re sipping or to end up overdoing it on the appetizers. Here are some of the essentials to stay on track when you’re out for a night of drinking:
- Always drink with food. Opt for meals and appetizers with protein, fat, and fiber; these will help to slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream and keep you feeling satisfied. Think salads or lettuce wraps with lean meats and avocado, or snacks like olives, nuts, veggies and hummus. The longer you stay level-headed, the more health-conscious choices you can make!
- Hydrate! Do you want to keep that hangover at bay? Staying hydrated is the way to go. Hydration doesn’t have to mean just plain water. If you’re drinking straight liquor or wine, include “spacers” in between your drinks–aim to sip down a non-alcoholic drink for every alcohol-containing drink you have. These might be sparkling water, unsweetened iced-tea, or classic water. If you prefer to mix your spirits with a mixer, you’re already one step ahead of the game–just make sure that mixer is low in added sugars. Make spritzers out of wines and rosés by adding sparkling water. You can also choose tasty combinations like rum with iced green tea or bourbon with lemon water.
- Avoid complex mixed drinks. Or talk to your bartender! Most mixed beverages (think mojitos, daiquiris, Long Island iced teas) are high in syrups or fruit juices. Ask your bartender if he has lower sugar alternatives–your bartender might be willing to craft you a lower sugar drink–or stick to some of our suggestions above.
- Plan ahead. Do you know what bar or restaurant you’re going to ahead of time? Look up their food and drink menu and choose what you’ll have beforehand, so that you’re making healthy choices when you’re sober and clear headed. If nothing on the menu meets your health goals, consider snacking at home.
- Give yourself a drink limit. Is a supportive friend or significant other coming along? Ask for accountability.
- If you like red wine, make it your staple. Red wine is high in resveratrol, an antioxidant that promotes heart and vascular health and can reduce inflammation. Just be sure to switch off between wine and water (or another low sugar, alcohol-free drink) to minimize the risk of a hangover.
We’ve also included a cheat sheet that lists the calorie and carbohydrate count of some common drinks, so you can make informed choices.
- Most wines (5 ounces): 100-130 calories, 3-5g carbs
- Vodka, gin, rum (1.5 ounces): ~96 calories, 0g carbs*
- Tequila, scotch, whiskey (1.5 ounces): ~105 calories, 0 g carbs*
- Light beers (12 ounces): 60-120 calories, ~1-8 g carbs
- Normal beers (12 ounces): 120-200 calories, ~6-14 g carbs
*Pure alcohol does not contain any carbohydrates; the calories come from alcohol itself. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram.