Make it Healthier: Cocktails


Spring is typically a busy season for outdoor socializing. And for adults, festive gatherings often include alcohol. As temperatures rise, ice-cold cocktails may be calling your name. To ensure these libations don’t break a day of nutritious eating, we checked in with Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated dietitian Jillian Morgan.

What’s the problem? “First, it’s important to note that, with any alcohol, the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to our health,” says Morgan. Alcohol consumption can cause intoxication, which can lower inhibitions and contribute to disease. “And from a nutrition standpoint, alcohol contains quite a bit of calories,” she says, noting that alcohol has seven calories per gram, compared to four calories per gram of protein. For cocktails, alcohol is often mixed with sugar-filled juice, flavored soda or simple syrup that not only increase the calorie content but can also raise your blood sugar. “Be particularly careful of the salted rim of some margaritas, which can include up to 2,000mg of sodium—the maximum daily recommended amount—in a single drink.”

The fix: If you are choosing to drink, there are simple ways to lighten up your cocktail. First, swap juice and sweetened sodas for muddled fresh fruit, herbs and soda water. “You will eliminate added sugar and still balance out the bitterness of the alcohol,” says Morgan. The
finished product will be less sweet than those traditionally offered in restaurants and bars. “But if your goal is to cover up the alcohol flavor, ask for or use less alcohol or opt for an alcohol-free ‘mocktail’ instead.” Focus on quality rather than quantity. “Think of your favorite food dish; it’s likely your favorite because of the texture, flavor and presentation,” says Morgan. “You can make a great cocktail with these principles in mind, too.” The CDC defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men (one drink being 12 oz. of regular beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of liquor).

The result: TGI Friday’s Piña Colada contains 430 calories, 4.5g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 76g carbohydrates and 72g sugar.

Try this!
Morgan shares her recipe for a refreshing Cucumber Spritzer: Muddle two slices of cucumber in a tall 12-oz. glass. Add 1.5 oz. of vodka, a few fresh mint leaves and ice. Stir then top with soda water.