If December is shaping up to be a month of parties and summer cocktails, it’s time to smarten up about your alcohol choices.
Don’t get us wrong – we fully support you ‘letting your hair down’, toasting to a hard year’s past and a future full of promise. However, information is power, and we feel you need to know this – alcohol DOES count towards your daily energy intake. In fact, one gram of alcohol (7 calories) has a similar amount of calories to one gram of fat (9 calories), and even more than one gram of sugar (4 calories).
We typically don’t think of alcohol in terms of calories, so here are some comparisons between alcohol and food that should put things into perspective:
- One glass of wine (150ml) = 2 Freddo frogs
- One bottle of standard beer (5% alc) = 3 Freddo frogs
- One bottle of light beer (2.5% alc) = 2 Freddo frogs
- One shot of pure spirits (30ml) = 1 Freddo frog
- One espresso martini = 3 Freddo frogs
- One Cosmopolitan cocktail = 3 Freddo frogs
- One pina colada cocktail = 4 Freddo frogs
Just think – the 3 glasses of wine and cheeky cocktail you enjoyed at the work Christmas party may have been equivalent to eating an entire bag of Freddo’s!
And sorry to tell you, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Alcohol can reduce your inhibitions and self-control, making you twice as likely to order that midnight kebab. And, we all know about the ‘hangover’ cravings for fatty, greasy foods. Furthermore, alcohol promotes fat storage and reduces our ability to burn fat. This is because our bodies prioritise alcohol metabolism, leaving food calories to be stored as fat, and remained stored until the energy from alcohol is used up (1).
You’re probably feeling very disheartened, but not to worry – there IS a way to include alcohol this party season, whilst still protecting that summer body you worked so hard for!
Our first piece of advice is MODERATION. The Australian Department of Health recommends a limit of two standard drinks per day, with at least three alcohol free days per week (2). To help you meet this target, limit mixed drinks with multiple alcohol shots (i.e. long island iced tea), drink beer on tap by the glass, and keep your wine pour to the 150ml. Make sure you have breaks in between drinks, and include still or sparkling water into your evening.
If you love a cocktail, our second piece of advice is to stick with options that have no added sugars or fats from mixers, syrups and liqueurs. Here are out top seven summer drink specials:
- Vodka, soda and lime: With only one shot of spirits and no added sugars or fats, this is our favourite option for a light alcoholic drink.
- Pimms cocktail with soda, a dash of fruit juice, and muddled fruit: Pimms is typically served with regular lemonade, but to avoid all that added sugar, try using soda with and a dash of fruit juice or a tsp of stevia. Serve with fresh fruit, like sliced strawberries, for extra sweetness and fun!
- Gin and diet tonic: Most people think tonic water has no sugar. But don’t be fooled by its name, because tonic is more like lemonade than water! Switch to diet tonic, and add a cucumber – at least there will be some nutritional quality to your drink!
- Peach bellini: Here’s one for the ladies! Fill your flute a quarter high with diluted peach juice, then top with your favourite champagne and a fresh peach slice.
- Frozen watermelon rose: A summer favourite that’s well worth the effort! Freeze some rose in ice cubes overnight, and blend with fresh watermelon and lots of ice for a refreshing, pink delight. Add fresh mint for something fancy
- Bloody Mary: Taking out the Vodka, the old-school Bloody Mary is actually quite nutritious! Based on tomato juice, and with a celery stick garnish, this cocktail provides a boost of vitamin C and fibre, and is low in sugar. Sticking to vodka keeps the calorie count from alcohol low, too.
- Classic cocktails without the sugar syrup: Think mojito, whiskey sour and gin fizz. Just ask the bartender to skip the sugar syrup, it still tastes great!