A Healthy Take on Summer Drinks

A Healthy Take on Summer Drinks

If you’re looking to watch your calorie intake this summer, make sure you’re paying attention to your summer drinks too! In particular, the calories in alcoholic drinks often enjoyed in the hot summer months can have a ton of “hidden empty calories”. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy yourself armed with the facts about summer drinks!

Most of us tend to monitor our alcohol for total amount consumed, yet we generally do not count the calories in drinks. Either consumers are not aware of the calories or find it difficult to track since most summer drinks don’t list the nutrition facts on the container. It’s not impossible though, calories are readily available for most drinks. How you can substitute lower calorie ingredients will also be examined in this post.

First, let’s look at the calories and alcohol in most commercial beer and wine products. From WineFolly.com, comes this statement; “while the average 12-ounce serving of beer contains 150 calories and 13 g carbs, which can be higher than wine and spirits, opting for beer does doom you to the unplanned beer belly. Choosing light versions of your favorite beer will save you upwards of 50 calories per serving and cut carbs in half.” (Wine Folly company quote 11/2012.)

Lite Beer:

Each of the major beer manufacturers such Budweiser, Miller Coors, Guinness, and several others have tasty low-calorie beer products or “lite” beers. It is easier to figure the calories as an average value per container or per serving: For example, 1-bottle of wine is 750 calories, on the average; a glass of wine (6 oz) is 180 calories. One 6-pack of beer is 900 calories, on the average; per glass (12 oz) is 150 calories.

Further, here are the calories in most popular lite beers:

  • Miller 64: 64 calories
  • Budweiser Select 55: 55 calories
  • Beck’s Premier Light: 63 calories
  • Amstel Light: 95 calories
  • Anheuser-Busch Light Pale Lager: 95 calories
  • Michelson Ultra: 95 calories
  • Natural Light: 95 calories
  • Miller Light: 96 calories

Each of these beers will vary slightly in taste and alcohol content. Most consumers find a product that is best for their tastes and over time it becomes an acquired taste. Price will also vary, but not by much. One thing is clear in casually talking to people about their beer choices is that they definitely like certain products and definitely dislike others. Hence, this can be figured to be personal choice and taste preferences. Read more about lite beer in Shape Magazine, “20 Bikini-Friendly Beers”.

For regular beer products and certainly those that are flavored with fruit and various grains the choices become even bigger. They cover a wide range of tastes and will give a much more full feeling. With the coming of even wider flavored craft beers made locally. Milwaukee downtown area has exploded with many wonderful shops that make their own craft beers daily and they are fun to visit. Calories are only part of the decision being made when considering which beverage to choose!

By nature, all alcoholic beverages are fat-free. So, the issue that you may have is based purely based on calories. But, yes, these are “empty calories” with no significant nutritional value. Only red wine contains antioxidants including resveratrol, which is known to have a number of health benefits.

Most producers today of beer and wine are spending much time and resources each year to find tasty low-calorie new tastes, and therefore, more diet friendly. As mentioned, light beer will save you half the carbohydrates than in regular beer products. Truthfully, you may need to get used to the less full feeling when drinking light beer than from the more full bodied beers.

Light Wine:

Today, there are many new light wines including the likes of “Skinnygirl” wines and many other popular brands. And, you can always turn a regular wine into a “wine spritzer” by making your glass half wine, half club soda. Additionally, you can also use more ice to “water down” the glass of wine and have it last longer.

Here are two of the most popular light wines available:

  • Skinnygirl, 2009, Bethenny Frankel, 3 popular wines, 100 calories/ 5 oz serving, 12% alcohol.
  • Skinny Vine, Christine Avanti, 95 calories/ 5 oz serving, 8% alcohol.

The calorie savings with these two most popular light products is not significant: a bottle of comparable white wine with a 5 oz serving is only 110 calories and is 13.5% alcohol. You will need to make your own conclusions. Lastly, many countries outside of the US do have some good low calorie wine products available and many are endorsed by Weight Watchers.

So, what about sangria or the possibility of making a wine cooler that will become your “go to” at home or when guests are coming over? Here is a good sangria that you may enjoy right from my kitchen. It is a long story but I did receive a gift of Apple Brandy that I needed to find a use for and ended up buying more.

Summertime Slowdown Sangria Recipe:

Makes 4-5 servings

  • Fruit: 1-apple and 1-orange, cut up small and pressed against the sides of glass pitcher
  • 1-cup organic orange juice
  • 3-Tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1/2-cup apple brandy
  • 2-cup of dry Spanish red wine, such as a Rioja wine
  • 1-cup ice for chilling

*Keep in refrigerator for 48 hours

Calories: 131 for 1/2 cup serving; Carbohydrates: 12.3 g; Sugar: 9 g. Vitamins are good for fruit included, as vitamin A and C.

Your summer drink preferences will most likely depend on the occasion and time allowed. For sure, the point of this article is just to have a general review of products available and to note that most of us think about the food we are eating and not so much about the drinks! If this is the case for you, then it is just one more way to be mindful of what we are doing and when. Try the Sangria though, I think you will like it!

Rita Larsen Registered Dietitian at Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Guest Contributor

Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, the University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.

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