Healthy Drinking: Not an Oxymoron

Cindy Cavett

, Food & Drink

Liquor companies have started turning out products aimed at those who are counting calories while enjoying an adult beverage or two

Living a healthy lifestyle is no longer a trend—the concept is here to stay. But that doesn’t mean you need to give up on kicking back at happy hour or hanging out at a summer BBQ with a cold one, nor does it mean that you can only drink a rum and Diet Coke. More than ever before, people are enjoying the “devil’s nectar” by turning to low-calorie products and recipes that don’t skimp on flavor.

One of the more recent trends in both alcohol and non-alcohol drinks is sparkling water mixed with low-calorie sweeteners. Companies have noticed that consumers are stepping back from soda consumption. In response, they are creating a variety of sparkling water options that run the gamut from Perrier and La Croix to sparkling adult beverages like kombucha, cold brew and wine.

Mike Rasmussen, co-owner of the Painted Stave Distillery in Smyrna, has this advice for those who want healthier options: “Stay away from flavored products like vodkas, cinnamon flavored shots, honey whiskeys, etc.,” he says. “Those can have hundreds of calories per shot because they are often sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. The best thing is to stick with unflavored vodka, gin, whiskey, and then use low-calorie mixers.”

One of the most notable healthy alternative brands is Skinnygirl Vodka, created by reality TV queen Bethenny Frankel. The brand prides itself on providing high-quality vodka and spirits that are low in calories and high on flavors. According to fatsecret.com, a 1.5 oz. serving of Skinnygirl vodka has only 75 calories. The company also offers sugar-free cocktail mixers, ready-to-serve cocktails and its own wine collection, all aimed at helping customers to be fit and trim while enjoying their adult beverages.

Healthy Spirits Shopping List

Cut calories by blending unflavored liquors with low-calorie mixers.

While shopping for a new low-calorie sparkling water or liquor, try products from this shopping list:

1. White Claw Hard Seltzer

2. Skinnygirl vodka and low-calorie cocktail mixers

3. VoCo Vodka and Coconut Water

4. Be Mixed—sugar-free and low-calorie cocktail mixers (The cucumber mint flavor is to die for!)

5. Bibo Barmaid cocktail pouches

6. Ketel One Botanical Vodka

7. Bacardi Classic Cocktails Pina Colada Light

8. Malibu Rum Island Spiced—sweetened with Truvia

9. Rumhaven Rum—Caribbean rum with coconut water and liqueur

10.   Skinny Sippers—low-calorie cocktails

Lauren Laplante-Rottman, champion bodybuilder and financial planner, teaches clients that they can pursue their passions while maintaining a balanced lifestyle. “My tip is to order your favorite alcoholic beverage ‘on the rocks,’ and ask for a glass of water, too,” she says. “Enjoy your adult beverage slowly; when you get a chance, you can even pour some of your water into your drink, albeit diluted. Now it feels like you’ve had two drinks but with the alcohol and calories of only one. More time has passed to allow your body to process the alcohol.” For more information on Laplante-Rottman’s business, check her out on Facebook under LaurenLaplanteMWA.

Alcohol can break down amino acids and store them as fat, so partaking more often than advised can lead to the dreaded “beer belly.” But drinking in moderation has its benefits. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “more than 100 percent of studies show an inverse association between moderate drinking and risk of heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes. The effect is fairly consistent, corresponding to a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction in risk.”

There’s an App for That

Not sure where to find low-calorie or sugar-free drinks? There’s an app for that! Here are some of the more popular apps for healthy alternative drink recipes:

1.      Myfitnesspal

2.      Yummly

3.      Allrecipes.com

4.      Pinterest

5.      Instagram

A few of the more popular hashtags on Instagram to query for healthy drinks and recipes are #healthydrink, #healthyalcohol and #ketoalcohol.

Locally, head to Delaware on Tap, the app for everything on tap in Delaware, including craft beer, spirits, and wine. Here you can sign up for a passport allowing you to check in and earn prizes as you sample Delaware’s drinks and flavors. When you hit the bar, mention to the bartender that you are health-conscious and would like less sugar or syrup in your drink.

It’s All in the Strategy

It’s not enough to select low-calorie and healthy options. Keeping track of how many drinks and calories you have ingested is a sure-fire way of knowing what you’re consuming and how much more you can handle. Here are more tips from local healthy life-stylists for helping you to adhere to your own healthy strategy:

“Just like food, alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, which is one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men. In the summer, it is especially important to make sure we get plenty of non-alcoholic hydration. In extreme heat, the alcohol can dehydrate us. I don’t drink if I have a long run planned the next day, to avoid dehydration. I like to have a glass of wine or a cocktail with dinner, and my husband enjoys trying different craft beers. There are lots of tasty low-calorie options too—like spiked seltzer—though if I’m having a drink I will usually pick something with more flavor.”

—Dr. Adrienne Yourek, MD and avid runner from Clayton

“The key to healthy alcohol drinking is to drink water before, during and after you partake in alcoholic beverages. A low-calorie cocktail is vodka, club soda, a splash of cranberry juice and a slice of lime. Another low-calorie option I like is straight-up tequila on ice with two lime slices.”

—Karen Rich, kickboxing member at 9Round in Wilmington

“Health is about balance. Alcohol is no different. The exception here is again to know your body and your family history. If you know alcoholism or addiction runs in your family or you [feel that you] have those traits, abstain from alcohol altogether and have virgin drinks to join in on the fun. If you can handle alcohol in moderation, then there are plenty of research articles that support a glass of red wine with dinner is heart healthy. Another tip is after a night of moderate indulgence, before going to bed drink a bottle of water with a lemon or two and this will flush your system a bit. If food was your indulgence and not alcohol, or maybe you had a night of both, then water before bed and a juiced shake of things like kale, spinach, citrus, banana and other ingredients will help to cleanse your GI tract in the morning. Again, the point is to live your life and have fun, while still remembering to care for your health.”

—Kimberly L. Marion, RN, MSN, Reiki master and holistic health practitioner from Delaware County

Before beginning any exercise or diet regimen, talk with your doctor about introducing low-calorie alcohol into your diet and ask for recommendations. You’d be surprised how helpful physicians can be when you ask for their advice, especially when it’s tailored to your specific health needs.

While exercising a healthy lifestyle, keep these tips in mind when reaching for the next seltzer or cocktail. And remember: You don’t have to sacrifice flavor for a smaller waist.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.