If you think light beer, vodka-sodas and white wine spritzers are the only way to go when counting calories, think again. With a few simple swaps almost any cocktail can go from diet disaster to totally doable. Apply these simple tricks to your favorite drinks to make them a little lighter but just as delicious!
1. Choose a smarter sweetener.
A lot of the tastiest — and most caloric — cocktails call for simple syrup, which is made by combining equal parts sugar and water. To avoid added calories and the inevitable spike in blood-glucose level, make your own calorie-free simple syrup using all-natural stevia. Simply dissolve one part stevia in four parts boiling water, cool, and use as you would regular simple syrup.
2. Let the (store-bought) juice loose.
Freshly squeeze juice whenever possible to avoid added sugars, colors and preservatives found in many store-bought varieties. Squeezing fruit close to cocktail time preserves more of the nutrients.
3. Heal a hangover.
Electrolyte-packed coconut water has become a hangover staple for many a partygoer, so why not get a jumpstart on the rehydration process? At just six calories an ounce and available in a variety of fun flavors, there’s no reason not to. Just be sure it’s the all-natural kind with no artificial additives.
4. Support the soda ban.
You don’t have to say sayonara to soda entirely. Just choose wisely. Skip sugary sodas and chemical-packed diet drinks and look for all natural, organic, sugar-free sodas like Q Drinks, which derive their sweetness from agave or Zevia, a line of soda naturally sweetened by stevia.
5. Go for the garnish.
Follow the lead of crowd favorite, sangria, and pack all your fruity cocktails with nutritious produce. By naturally adding flavor and sweetness you can skip artificially flavored alcohols and mixers. Plus, the fruit’s fiber may help you resist an extra order of French fries.
6. Mix with the right crowd.
Often, the sugar found in cocktails comes from the juice, but not all varieties are created equal. Per ounce, grapefruit, orange, cranberry and pineapple juice contain 11, 15, 16 and 17 calories respectively. Doesn’t sound like much, but considering the average screwdriver contains six ounces of OJ (90 calories), choosing grapefruit juice saves 24 calories per cocktail. Grapefruit also boasts 4.8 grams fewer carbohydrates and no sodium.
7. Add a the right type of sparkle.
When it comes to carbonation, zero-calorie sparkling water (aka seltzer) is the way to go. Not only will you slash calories, you’ll avoid the added sodium found in club soda, or the high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors that give tonic and ginger ale their distinctive taste.
8. Give your booze a boost.
Cutting calories and eliminating sugar aren’t the only ways to make happy hour healthier. Use good-for-you ingredients like antioxidant-packed green, mint or oolong tea as a smart mixer. Low-sodium tomato juice is chock-full of cancer-fighting lycopene and fresh lemon juice aids digestion — particularly helpful when you make that late night burrito run!
9. Say yes to soju.
With a neutral flavor similar to vodka, clear and colorless soju, a Korean distilled spirit, is becoming widely available in the U.S. — and for good reason. Packing less than 70 calories per shot (versus vodka’s almost 100), soju can save serious calories during a long night at the bar.
10. Go green.
There’s nothing like fresh herbs to take a drink up a notch — and they’re not limited to just the mojito. Add herbs whenever possible to up the your drink’s nutrition stats and flavor. Upgrade a gimlet with blood-sugar stabilizing basil or pour yourself a mint julep (whose star ingredient is known to soothe the stomach). Muddling greens releases even more good-for-you compounds so be sure to give them a good smash.