OK — so drinking isn't exactly good for us. Most of us don't need a doctor to tell us that at this point. However, when it comes to our health, not all alcoholic beverages are created equal, and there are definitely drinks that won't derail your health or overall fitness goals as much as certain other options.
According to a study from the Center for Disease Control, most U.S. adults drink about as much sugar from alcoholic beverages as they do from drinks like juices and sodas. One of the study's authors, Cynthia Ogden, said this is worth noting, as there has been increased public attention on the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks throughout the day (for example, a full-sugared soda with your dinner), but there is much less attention paid to reminding adults that their evening beer or cocktail can be just as bad for you.
Now I don't know about you, but I can personally vouch for the fact that I often don't consider alcohol when I'm creating a healthy eating plan. For some weird reason, alcohol often falls under a special exception category in my brain. I could make healthy choices all day long, and then I won't think twice about the hard cider or two I have with friends that night. I would never drink a sugary processed beverage without at least consciously considering the fact that it's not the best thing for my health, and yet for some reason that same thought process seldom goes through my head when I'm imbibing alcohol.
If this sounds familiar, and if you're also trying to make a concerted effort to make healthier decisions for your body day-to-day, here are nine cocktails to order at the bar that are way better for you than your typical brew.
1. Lime & Ginger
The editors at Charlotte's Book — a lifestyle website with tons of beauty and wellness info — compiled a list of cocktails that actual nutritionists drink, and Dana James, MS CNS, CDN, and founder of Food Coach NYC, recommended a lime and ginger cocktail as her top pic. Not only is this one incredibly simple to make, but ginger has been proven to work as a stomach-aid, an anti-inflammatory, and has even been shown to ease menstrual cramps. You just need vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, and you're good to go.
2. Put The Lime In The Coconut
In the same list, Charlotte Book's founder Robin Shobin recommended this super simple concoction. "Stir together gin, coconut water (extra hydration while you imbibe), and lime juice (detoxifies). Pour over ice, or serve up," Shobin said.
3. Anything Herbal
In a piece for U.S. News And World Report on what actual dieticians drink when they indulge, Jessica Fishman Levinson, registered dietitian and founder of Nutritioulicious, said she goes for almost any cocktail made with fresh herbs, as it means you get a lot of flavor without having to add sugary juices or mixers that aren't great for your health overall. "For cocktails, I like gin-based cocktails that are made with fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary, as well as fresh summer berries. Summer is a great time of year to add fresh herbs and fruit to cocktails," Levinson said.
4. Pineapple Mojito
OK — this is cheating because this recipe from Claire Gallam's site The Healthy Nutritionist is likely something you'll need to make yourself at home, but I had to include it just for its sheer awesome factor. Gallam uses fresh, whole strawberries, pineapple, and nectarines for this one, and you can definitely adjust the amount of added sugar to your preference. The thing that makes this one so great is that it uses whole fruits — not just the juice — which means it contains way more fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants.
5. Frozen Gin Coolers
This is another one from Gallam's site that is likely something you'd make at home over ordering, but it's absolutely worth it if you're having people over and don't just want to guzzle wine or beer. Blueberries, pineapple chunks, coconut water, gin, and basil leaves make the base of this one. And again, it has way more health benefits than a drink with a juice-base because it actually uses the whole fruit.
6. The Prana
This drink comes from Mat Snapp, mixologist at the True Food Kitchen, co-founded by holistic medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil. And while you're average bartender might not know this one by name, if you know the basic ingredients you should be able to direct him or her to a good approximation. It's basically pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, coconut water, and vodka, and the full recipe can be found here. Snapp noted that a coconut water-based cocktail is always a good option, as alcohol depletes our electrolytes while coconut water replenishes them.
7. Kale Margarita
While you may only be able to find this drink from Melissa Farley — professional dancer-turned-health coach and founder of FitTrition — at specialty bars, it's super easy to make at home for yourself. It's made from kale juice, ginger juice, lime juice, and tequila, and a little agave nectar to taste. So while you may be imbibing, you're also getting a ton of healthful benefits of kale, like Vitamin C, potassium, and a variety of antioxidants.
8. Cosmo With Extra Seltzer
In a piece for Cosmo, Bethany Frankel, founder of SkinnyGirl Cocktails, recommended simply ordering a cosmo and asking your bartender to replace the liquor with seltzer. The end result will basically amount to a shot of citrus-flavored vodka, a splash of club soda, and cranberry juice. The key to this replacement is that it reduces your overall sugar intake, which is always an added benefit considering sugar has a wide array of negative health implications, including diabetes and heart disease.
9. Lose The Straw
OK, this tip from Tina Haupert, founder of the fitness and lifestyle site Carrots N' Cake, isn't actually a recipe, but is a final tip to help you navigate the worlds of health and alcohol. Haupert recommended instantly ditching the straw whenever you order a cocktail, as it will help you pace yourself and prevent you from drinking more than you intended.
While drinking will never be "healthy" per se, there are definitely choices you can make when you do choose to drink that are healthier than other options. And if you just really, really feel like that white Russian or sugary cocktail, just drink it and enjoy yourself. Because isn't that the point of indulging in the first place?
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