Healthier Myrtle Beach-style cocktails to keep you on track

For Weekly SurgeJanuary 15, 2014 

We are fresh enough into our new year that all of the resolutions should still be motivational. At least for another week or so. When it comes to cocktails, most of us would like to reduce the amount we consume in 2014.

What is healthy drinking?

There is no such thing as “healthy drinking” when it comes to alcohol. Consuming alcohol, in any amount, may have a negative impact on the body. However, if you are going to consume alcohol, there are ways that reduce the risk of these effects.

Let us begin by determining what is considered “one drink”. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “one drink” is defined as 12 ounces of beer (at not more than 5 percent alcohol by volume), 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (not more than 40 percent alcohol by volume). These amounts equal, roughly, 14 grams of pure alcohol in each and are considered “standard drinks.”

Given these guidelines for drink sizes, research has proven there to be little to no ramifications from consuming these amounts in moderation. What is moderation?

In men, moderation would be no more than four drinks on any single day and not more than 14 drinks per week. In women, moderation would be no more than three drinks on any single day and not more than seven drinks per week. Any consumption more than these amounts are considered to have risks to your health and do not fall within the term “moderation.”

As you continue your resolutions this year, sticking within these amounts will reduce risk to your health due to alcohol consumption. We all know the effects alcohol has on the liver, heart, brain, pancreas and immune system. However, over-consumption is even linked to cancer of various degrees. All good things to reduce.

If you choose to partake in our cocktail culture and you stay within the confines of these recommendations, there are further steps that you can take to make drinking a little less harmful to your body. Again, less harmful, not healthy, and mostly in the aesthetic type of result.

A big factor in the caloric intake from cocktails is found in the mixer. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s nutritional evaluation of spirits, an 80 proof distilled spirit contains approximately 97 calories per 1.5 ounces. A standard margarita contains roughly 276 calories per six ounce cocktail altogether. Thus, 65 perent of the calories in a margarita are from the mixers or things added to the base spirit.

Virtually anything you add to a distilled spirit will increase the caloric value of the cocktail. Most of these added calories comes from sugars in the mix. Here are some substitutions that you can make that will reduce, not eliminate, the amount of calories you are consuming at the bar.

A martini is a sure way to stick close to the 97 calories. Most martinis are more than 1.5 ounces, but not much more. If you take 2 ounces of vodka or gin, shake well with ice and strain into a standard martini glass with no garnish you would only produce roughly 128 calories. Now, this is not going to be your big gulp style of cocktail that you may get from your roommate who is a bartender at insert-dive-bar-here, but you will get a perfectly acceptable cocktail by classic definitions.

If you prefer it on the rocks, simply skip the shaking step and just let the ice naturally melt as you sip the drink. The key is to sip the drink. Healthy imbibing and nutritional values go out the window if you simply take shots of the stuff.

If you prefer a mixer and flavor added to your drink, the traditional club soda option is chock full of calories. Instead, try using a sparkling mineral water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. The sparkling water adds no calories to the cocktail and you only gain approximately 6 calories per quarter of a whole fruit in the lemon and lime category. That is more than enough to flavor the drink. Vodka with sparkling mineral water and a quarter of a lemon will run in the neighborhood of 103 calories.

Drinks such as the mojito have grown in popularity this century. These sticky sweet concoctions have the impression of packing in the calories. This is not altogether true.

In and of themselves, and illustrated on www.healthyeating.com, one tablespoon of honey will add roughly 64 calories to a drink and one tablespoon of simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water) will add 49 calories. It does not create a situation of one being better than the other, necessarily, but the caloric intake leans to the side of simple syrup.

As recipes differ, so do calories. A uniform mojito at 8 ounces will yield appproximately 215 calories per drink. If you stick with just rum, lime, mint and sparkling mineral water, you reduce the calorie count to somewhere around 115. Clearly, there is more than one tablespoon of simple syrup in the recipe and club soda also finds a place.

As we press on through the new year and most resolutions slowly dissolve into a distant memory, drinking is something we should keep on our radar. The choice to drink at all and how much at one time are the largest decisions we face. Anything beyond the studied servings and quantities has adverse effects when it comes to your health.

Likewise, the mixers you choose could be counter productive in your health regimen for the new year as well. Keeping it simple, natural and fresh are all great ways to reduce the calories, but keeping the servings low will reduce the more detrimental risks involved in drinking alcohol.

Whatever you choose, be informed and stay focused on a great new year health plan. Cheers!

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