This Dietitian’s Healthy(-ish) Top Summer Alcoholic Drinks

On my recent holiday in Mexico, I wanted to enjoy some refreshing drinks, but without all the sugar and with some sort of nutritional benefits. I did my research, and a little experimenting, to create a list of my top 9 summer drinks that you can make yourself or order at the bar.

‘Healthy’ is subjective, and I consider this list of drinks ‘healthy-ish’ as they’re low-calorie and low-sugar. Nothing on this list is ‘healthy,’ if not consumed in moderation. Alcohol contains calories and does not contribute toward your daily nutrition – the ‘healthy’ ingredients are the add-ins. 

1. My favourite – Caesar or Bloody Mary
A Caesar pairs vodka with Clamato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, garnished with celery, and sometimes pickles and olives. A Bloody Mary uses tomato juice instead of Clamato. Both beverages are pretty low-calorie, and pack in nutrients from the tomatoes. You can also use lower-sodium juices, and use lemon pepper instead of celery salt to rim the glass. I find that because the drink is spicy, it slows down my drinking and encourages me to drink water in between.

2. Wine
Red wine contains antioxidants that have positive impacts in heart health, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. In my previous blog, Can Red Wine Help You Fight Bad Breath?, I also mention the benefit of red wine helping improve oral health. White wines are more fitting in the summer and tend to be slightly lower in calories. Light whites, such as Riesling and Pinot Grigio, have fewer calories than those with a higher alcohol content, such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.


3. Sugar-less Mojito
A Mojito is the perfect minty, refreshing, summer drink, made with soda, fresh mint, lime juice, and rum. But when you add in the sugar or syrup, it adds calories, and a higher sugar drink can also lead to a hangover. Instead, try adding a low-calorie natural sweetener like Stevia or ask for half of the sugar.

4. A light beer or Guinness
Check out this chart for a calorie and carbohydrate comparison on different beers. This can guide your decision on your choice of summer beer. If you’re looking for a thicker beer, try a Guinness – a thick Irish beer that is only 128 calories per 12 ounces, and has just under 10 grams of carbs. It’s made from more whole grains than lager, and it’s been shown to have similar antioxidant properties to red wine.

5. Skinny Paloma
This was my drink of choice in Mexico – it’s delicious and cooling. Skip the grapefruit soda and make yourself a skinny Paloma using freshly juiced grapefruit, tequila, lime juice and sparkling water. There’s no need for an added sweetener because grapefruit juice from pink or red grapefruit offers plenty of sweetness.


6. Diet highball
You can cut calories and sugar in your highball by switching to diet soda. You can do gin (or vodka) and diet tonic, Jack and Coke (made with diet cola), scotch and soda, Seven and Seven (Seagram’s 7 and diet 7-Up), rum and diet coke, or rye and ginger (rye whiskey and diet ginger ale). However, keep in mind that since diet soda contains less sugar, it may cause greater intoxication than full-calorie soda.

If you’re looking for mixers that are pretty low-calorie, try these options:
– Diet soda, diet tonic, seltzer water: 0 calories
– Light lemonade (8 oz): 5 calories
– Lemon or lime juice (1/2 oz): 10 calories
– Light cranberry juice (8 oz): 40 calories
– Light orange juice (8 oz): 50 calories

7. Vodka soda
Contrary to popular belief, tonic water is not calorie and sugar-free like soda water. So swap your tonic water for diet tonic or seltzer/soda water. A vodka soda is a light and refreshing drink, and with a squeeze of either lemon or lime, you get a healthy flavour boost.

8. Champagne
Champagne and champagne-related cocktails are lower in the calorie department. One standard flute (about 4 ounces) is about 90 calories, less than a glass of wine or any mixed drink. You can make it into a healthier mimosa by using freshly squeezed orange juice, instead of the store-bought stuff.

9. Anything ‘on the rocks’
If you like hard liquor without any mix-ins, it’s an easy way to cut calories and added sugar. In 1.5 ounces, Rum has about 96 calories, Gin has 97 calories, Vodka has 101 calories, and Whiskey and Tequila have 104 calories. Since I don’t drink alcohol ‘on the rocks,’ I don’t have an informed opinion if any of these are tasty.
My husband Joshua and I spent a week in May in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

Summer means patio season and lounging by the pool with an icy-cool beverage in hand. I hope these lower-calorie and lower-sugar beverages help you stay on track with a healthy(-ish) lifestyle. Remember to enjoy, and also hydrate. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than two drinks a day, 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day, 15 per week for men.

What’s your favourite cocktail or non-alcoholic drink? Let me know in the comments below.

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