Guilt-Free Happy Hour
Liz Vaccariello, author of 400 Calorie Fix, reveals her strategies for making the best choices the next time you belly up to the bar:
"Liquid calories are very dangerous," Liz warns, "because we don’t have an awareness of what we’re consuming and we’re not getting full as we’re drinking - and we also have completely out of whack serving sizes!" While the standard serving sizes are 8 ounces for beer, 1.5 ounces for spirits and 5 ounces for wine, you're often being served a lot more alcohol, especially when ordering a large margarita or draft beer. "So we're trying to give you strategies to eyeball and know when you're placing your order how much you're consuming," says Liz.
Wine can be a low-calorie choice. "It has polyphenols, which open up our blood vessels and are good for our heart and our brain; resveratrol, which can prevent cancer cells from forming," says Liz, pointing out that it can also be good for weight loss. "They’ve done studies that found that people who have one glass of wine a day tend to have lower BMI’s than people who don’t."
Though Liz explains that red wine is a healthier option over white wine with only about 150 calories for a standard five-ounce serving, she advises to be on the lookout because often you're being poured the equivalent of two or three glasses of wine. "If you’re concerned about calories, go for the wine spritzer," she recommends. "It’s refreshing in the summer and you can get yourself down to about 90 calories."
Mixed drinks are not dangerous for your diet in terms of the alcohol because one shot is only about 100 calories for vodka, whisky or rum, but when you start mixing a lot of things together, the calories add up. "A Long Island iced tea has four different alcohols and two different mixers put in there," she points out. "And it’s going to run you 780 calories - that’s the equivalent of a Quarter Pounder and fries!"
Liz advises to choose the simpler route whenever possible. "So a vodka and soda, or a rum and coke are good choices," she explains. "Avoid anything that sounds like a dessert, like a chocolate martini, because it’s probably going to do the same damage as a dessert."
The non-drinkers or designated drivers in your party will save calories with non-alcoholic beers, which are between 40 and 70 calories for 8 ounces. "If you’re looking for a 400-calorie meal," Liz says, "you can have three non-alcoholic beers and 20 French fries with ketchup, so that can be a little meal for you if you want to think about it that way when you’re going out to a bar."
However, Liz warns to avoid virgin daiquiris or piña coladas; the mixture that contains all the sugar and or sour mix could make one drink as much as 400 calories. "If that’s your meal that you want to spend your calories on, do it," she says, "But, much of us would rather have three glasses of wine."
Liz sums up: "The whole idea is sensible splurging; go in armed with information."
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