The festive season is upon us, and we all know what that means. Your workout regime goes out the window and in comes the booze, roast potatoes and Quality Street. But just because you want to toast your successful year (or forget the memories of your bad one) with a drink or two doesn’t mean you have to completely derail your progress and wake up with a sugar hangover that could fell a horse.
The calories in different kinds of alcoholic drinks can vary hugely, depending on if you’re drinking a pina colada, a glass of wine or a whisky on ice. Knowing what’s in the cocktail shaker could make the difference between returning to work in January with a beer belly and ending the year on a fitness high. Just because you’re looking to limit unnecessary calorie intake doesn’t mean you have to turn down a celebratory drink altogether - you just have to be smart about it.
The best way to do this is to opt for spirits, wine and beer with as few frills and extras as possible. Each shot of spirit ranges from 60 to 100 calories, and it’s the mixers which can really up the calorie count. Premade cocktails tend to have high sugar levels, a pint of beer is equivalent to a slice of pepperoni pizza, calorie-wise, and a glass of white wine has around the same number of calories as a doughnut. Although you might be sipping these calories rather than chewing them, they very much count towards your daily total and come with none of the vitamins and nutrients of when you eat real, nutritious food.
Luckily, we know how you can enjoy a few drinks without wrecking your diet. Clear drinks are the way to go, such as spirits with soda, wine, champagne and light beers. Avoid juices, sugary mixers such as fizzy drinks, energy drinks and tonic water.
If you’re a die-hard fan of fruity cocktails such as a strawberry daiquiri, consider making your own, which puts you in control of the sugar content and means you can add more fruit, which basically turns the drink into a fruit salad. Or add flavour in a way that doesn’t add calories, such as fresh herbs, fresh ginger and other flavourings.
Whatever you’re drinking, the most important thing is to stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb is drink a glass of water for every drink you consume, as well as making a concerted effort to drink plenty of water during the day if you’re knowing you’re probably going to be having a wild one that night. This is especially true if you’re exercising, as you’ll be losing extra water to sweat.
These are the best low-calories drinks to order or make at home.
It’s a classic for a reason. Around 65 calories per shot, vodka is one of the lowest calorie spirits out there and soda water is calorie-free. When you compare this to a gin and tonic, which comes in at around 200 calories for both gin and mixer, you’re sitting pretty. We would definitely advise adding some slices of fresh lime to this drink for flavour, but you could also add a splash or two or cranberry juice or pineapple juice if you don’t mind a small amount of sugar and want to make it even more delicious.
With around 100 calories for a 150ml glass, red wine isn’t the lowest calorie drink out there but it makes up for this with health benefits including polyphenols, which help to reduce inflammation in the body. Red wine may also be good for gut health, which can improve digestion and immunity and make it easier to stay at a healthy weight. If you’re worried about not being able to stop after a glass or two, split a bottle with a friend so you know that when the bottle is done, you’ve hit your limit.
A margarita might be the best thing to drink with Mexican food, but it’s packed with sugar. A mojito, on the other hand, is a surprisingly light cocktail - especially if you’re making it yourself. A combination of soda water, mint, rum and lime, if you go easy on the added sugar then the whole drink runs to around 100 calories.
Sometimes you just want a beer. And as long as you don’t reach for one that has a high alcohol by volume (ABV) ratio, you’re good to go. A Corona Light has 99 calories, a Budweiser Select has 55 calories and a pint of Guinness has 125. Bottoms up.
Anything on the rocks
Not only is drinking tequila, rum or whisky on the rocks (or with a splash of water - either will do) a very chic attribute to have, it’s also one of the best things to drink when you’re looking for a low calorie way to celebrate. Rather than having a spirit with a sugary mixer, you’re getting a drink with a similar flavour profile that you’re far more likely to sip slowly, which will mean you’ll drink less and ingest less sugar.
Nothing says Christmas like a champagne cocktail - and it’s a drink which is surprisingly low in calories. Composed of a sugar cube sprinkled with bitters, topped off with champagne then given a citrus twist, you can add a drop of brandy or Triple Sec if you want to spice things up. Delicious, festive and stylish, it might just be the ideal Christmas tipple.