Things are warming up here! While we may just be blessed with a few weeks of warmer weather before a month of spring rain and chills, I'll take it!
Summer sun and sweet, sweet wine (preferably a riesling) used to be my go-to drink when the weather was good; however, after a night of such with a dietician friend, she let me in on Riesling's dirty little secret. It's packed full of sugar, and there can be as much as 21 grams of sugar per (small) glass. I knew it wasn't going to be super healthy of course, but it did shock me just how much sugar I was getting with each drink.
This got me thinking about how I could be more conscious about my calorie intake when it comes to drinking. I make no secret about liking my food and would rather save calories for the food at a summer barbecue than waste it on the aperitifs.
If you are in a similar boat, here's my rundown on the best low-calorie drinks to stick to this summer so you can fill up on tasty treats without the guilt.
Cocktails have a reputation for being calorific. Syrups and artificial fruity drinks can quickly add up the calories, and before you know it, you can say goodbye to cooling down with an ice cream.
An easy way to make things a little lighter is to ask for half the syrup in your cocktails, or if you are feeling brave, ditch it altogether. A Mojito without the syrup, or just a little less, becomes the ideal low-calorie cocktail. Soda water, fresh mint and white rum add up to about 100 calories; add the simple syrup and you double that.
When it comes to counting calories and cocktails, not all fruit drinks are created equal. While pure cranberry juice is pretty low in sugar, its tartness means it is almost always found as a juice drink, i.e. with a boatload of added sugar. Ditch sugary options like that and instead opt for grapefruit juice or cordials that will give you flavour without the sugar rush yet are strong enough to match up to spirits like vodka and tequila.
If you are on the lookout for a drink that will last a little longer and won't give you quite the alcohol hit of a cocktail, then lagers are a great summer option. I have fully converted to Tennent's Light as my light beer of choice. It's got only 60 calories per bottle and is also pretty low in the alcohol stakes, with an ABV of 3.5%.
I like using light beer to make a lager shandy for a super refreshing drink. Shandies are half beer and half lemonade (sugar-free sprite is my preferred mixer). It makes for a delicious drink that is ideal for keeping hydrated and your wits about you!
While it may seem that I'm all about the alcohol, believe it or not, I do enjoy drinks that have no booze whatsoever in them. If you don't want to stick to just straight water, your options for drinks tend to be sugary fruit juice or fizzy drinks. I struggled with this for a long time when I decided to cut alcohol out of my diet for six months. During this time, I visited a friend in America and discovered the joy that is iced tea.
It's readily available all over the states and feels a little bit more sophisticated than ordering a coke. Tea is practically a zero-calorie drink, making it a major win; however, you need to be aware to ask for it unsweetened. Depending on where you are in America, it can come with a very generous helping of sugar, so always ask!
In this country, fresh iced tea is pretty non-existent; the closest you can get are bottles of Lipton's iced tea. The pre-bottled stuff is good for when you are on the go; just be sure to check the calorie count on the label as some add sugar. Making it yourself is super simple, and I like to make a big batch that I can keep in my fridge to last me for the week.
Why fresh lime juice is your friend
This is my ultimate secret tip to enjoying drinks without the sugar hit. Lime juice is a magical substance that gives everything a delicious tang and will have you coming back for more. A healthy dash of it in any of the drinks I mentioned above will elevate them to another level without adding excess calories. Add a lime wedge garnish to a tall glass of sparkling water or ginger ale along with some lime or lemon juice, crushed ice and spirit of choice to create a simple yet delightfully refreshing low-calorie summer cocktail.
You can use the bottled stuff, but personally, I find that fresh juice is that much tastier. When you squeeze it yourself, you will also get a supply of the tiny lime jewels that are absolutely amazing in cocktails. There is nothing quite like that burst of juice in your drink!
If you are watching the calories this summer I hope these drinks give you ideas of what you can look forward to without any guilt. Let me know in the comments what your own favourites are.