If you’re serious about losing weight or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you may think you have to go into “strict diet mode” and cut out alcohol completely. So, you reluctantly trade happy hours for nights in front of the TV. After all, it’s the only surefire way to drop pounds, right? Wrong.
If you're serious about losing weight or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you may think you have to go into "strict diet mode" and cut out alcohol completely. So, you reluctantly trade happy hours for nights in front of the TV. After all, it's the only surefire way to drop pounds, right? Wrong. "If you enjoy social drinking, there's no reason to abstain from alcohol just because you are on a diet," says creator of the best-selling "The F-Factor Diet," registered dietician Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., RD. "In fact, depriving yourself can set you back far more than a glass of wine ever could." So if you want to grab a drink, go for it. Here are 10 ways you can imbibe without derailing your diet.
1. Keep Your Cocktails Simple
Ditch drinks with multiple liquors or high-calorie mixers. A Long Island Iced Tea has a whopping 280 calories and 33 grams of carbs, and a Cosmopolitan has 260 calories and 16 grams of carbs. Instead, opt for a vodka and soda, (or choose a lower-calorie vodka and mix it with a splash of grapefruit or cranberry juice), which has only about 100 calories and two grams of carbs. Or you could order tequila on the rocks with lime, which has 96 calories and no carbs. If you prefer something sweeter -- minus the extra calories -- vanilla vodka with Sprite Zero, which has 92 calories and 1 gram of carbs, just might do the trick.
2. Drink in Moderation
Whether you head out for drinks four nights a week with clients or you just have a packed social calendar, it's perfectly fine to enjoy a glass of wine or a low-calorie cocktail any day of the week. Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., RD creator of the best-selling "The F-Factor Diet," says, "The idea is to drink in moderation, incorporating your drink into your balanced lifestyle and healthy-eating routines." She refers to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which says, "According to research, women who consume moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to gain weight than nondrinkers and actually have a lower risk of obesity."
3. Toast to Brunch With a Bloody Mary
Kicking off the day with mimosas or Bloody Marys? Yes, please! But will they wreck your day's worth of calories? While both have about 125 calories, a Bloody Mary -- made from vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and Tabasco -- is more diet-friendly because it contains seven grams of carbohydrates. Meanwhile, one mimosa, comprised of orange juice and champagne, contains 125 calories and 19 grams of carbohydrates. But both have some health benefits: The tomato juice in a Bloody Mary contains lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. And the champagne in mimosas has antioxidants from the grape skins that it's made from as well as vitamin C and potassium from the orange juice.
4. Avoid Regular Margaritas
Sure, they evoke images of lounging under palm trees or memories from your last birthday party at your favorite cantina, but these dangerously tasty libations pack a mighty caloric punch. Whether served frozen or on the rocks, the average regular margarita boasts 370 to 450 calories and 20 grams of carbs per drink! Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., RD, and creator of the best-selling "The F-Factor Diet," suggests, "If you must order a margarita, request a skinny margarita -- mixed using fresh lime juice, a little agave and a lime wedge -- instead of a sugary, high-calorie margarita mix."
5. Drink Wineâ€¦Spritzers
For those who love a bold cabernet or zesty chardonnay, here's good news: A glass of red or white wine only contains around 125 calories. Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., RD, says, "Having a glass of wine with your meal won't ruin your diet. But if you are apt to have several glasses," she recommends, "a great way to keep the calories down is to have a wine spritzer made with half wine and half club soda, or you can substitute any calorie-free carbonated beverage." She adds, "Wine does offer health benefits, so drinking wine certainly has a place in a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Antioxidants found in red wine help fight free radicals and may help prevent heart disease by increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Red wine also contains resveratrol, which helps reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and prevent blood clots."
6. Eat First, Then Drink
If you're sacrificing food calories for booze calories, you may think it's perfectly fine to skip a meal in lieu of a "liquid dinner." Not the case. Studies have shown that drinking on an empty stomach may cause intoxication faster. If you have some food in your stomach before drinking, it will help slow alcohol absorption. Plus, it can help you avoid the "drinking munchies." And if you know you're going to be drinking, eat a lighter meal to balance out the calories.
Related: 7 Drinks That Won't Derail Your Diet
7. Dodge the â€śDrunk Munchiesâ€ť
That strange phenomenon known as the "drunk munchies," in which you feel hungry after a couple of drinks, can be a diet's worst enemy. And there's actually a very good scientific reason why they occur. Registered dietician Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., RD, says, "Our blood sugar levels tend to drop when we are drinking as the body works hard to excrete alcohol, which it recognizes as a toxin. This can drive food cravings for carbohydrates, which raise blood sugar levels." So what's a dieting drinker to do? Tanya suggests, "Before you drink or while drinking, eat a small meal that combines protein and fiber. This will help absorb the alcohol and stabilize blood sugar levels."
Related: What Really Happens When You Drink
8. Raise a Mug of Light Beer
Beer lovers, rejoice! You, too, can stick to a healthy diet and enjoy an ice-cold brew with friends. If you're a lager lover, ask for a low-carb beer like Michelob Ultra, containing just 2.6 grams of carbs and only 95 calories per bottle. If you're more of a stout fan, a Guinness Draught is a worthy choice, at 126 calories and just less than 10 grams of carbs. And if you're happiest with Belgian white ale, request a Hoegaarden, which touts a reasonable 147 calories.
9. Sip Stronger to Linger Longer
Anytime there's a wedding reception or other celebration, odds are good that the booze will be flowing. So how can you drink moderately when the party's still going after a few hours? Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., RD, creator of the best-selling "The F-Factor Diet," suggests, "Make it a martini. Drinks that go down easily also go down fast -- leaving you ready for another all too soon. And calories add up when you order drinks that combine alcohol with sugary juices and soda or creamy mixers. If you opt for a stronger drink, you'll linger longer before you're ready for your next one."
10. Alternate Cocktails With H2O
If you are going to have several drinks, to keep calories down," Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., RD, recommends, "simply alternate each cocktail with a glass of water or diet soda." It also helps keep your body hydrated. And if you do drink a few, she suggests making sure you get in a good workout the next day to sweat out the toxins. Also be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. It's another healthy way to release the toxins that are in your body from all of the booze the night before.
What Do YOU Think?
Are you struggling to find a balance between social drinking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Have you tried any of these ways to incorporate alcohol into your diet? How did they work for you? Do you have any tips of your own? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below!