With its high-cal sugary mixers and artificial flavors—and rum on top of that—a 3.5-ounce pina colada will spike your sugar intake by 35 grams and your calorie count by more than 300 at a minimum. You'll probably consume more calories in this glass than you would with a Big Mac. "There are better ways to treat yourself to a tropical cocktail than mixing sugar with alcohol," says registered dietitian Keri Glassman, author of The New You (and Improved) Diet. She suggests combining rum with unsweetened coconut water and a fresh slice of pineapple to satisfy your craving instead.
Long Island Iced Tea
Iced tea? Sounds low-cal, but it's definitely not. "A Long Island Iced Tea can run more than 430 calories for just 9 ounces," Glassman says. "The combination of rum, vodka, gin, tequila, and triple sec makes this cocktail not only a calorie bomb, but one that will most likely give you a pretty impressive headache the next day." As a healthier alternative, mix unsweetened iced tea with vodka, and top with a few squeezes of lemon and lime. "Black tea has numerous health benefits, because it is loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols, and tannins that support immune health," says Glassman.
Sure, the fruit floating in that glass of sangria looks great, but all those sweeteners make for a ton of excess calories. "Don't be fooled," says Glassman. "Although I love the benefits of red and white wine, sangria often has additional fruit juice, simple syrup, and table sugar mixed in, making this cocktail very caloric." If you can, ask the bartender to skip the sweeteners when he mixes up a new pitcher of sangria. Or opt for a glass of wine instead. If you're making sangria yourself, try this top-notch, fruity option: Mix a bottle of white wine, one cup fresh raspberries, one cup fresh blackberries, and one cup sliced white peaches.
The more mixed your drink (aka the more crazy, wild flavors it can come in), the more likely it's packed with calories. Frozen margaritas—a summertime staple—are a perfect example, with a potential for 500 to 700 calories in just one glass. "The least mixed your drink, the better off you are," says registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It. Opt for tequila on the rocks with a twist of lime—and rotate with club soda and lime to stay hydrated.
If you haven't sensed a theme here yet, sweet, fruity, frozen drinks are the biggest offenders when it comes to packing on summer pounds. With 4 ounces of fruit and artificial syrup as a mixer to each ounce of alcohol, a strawberry daiquiri is essentially pure sugar, clocking in at 500 to 600 calories thanks to the large glass it's usually served in. Make it at home and skip the extra sweeteners, blending together unsweetened strawberries, ice, and rum for a skinnier version of this classic.
"Lots of people assume martinis are low in calories because they're clear, but the problem is all the different kinds these days," says Taub-Dix, pointing to chocolate martinis as an example. Mixing chocolate sweeteners with vodka for a drink equivalent to a dessert, this cocktail has little in common with its gin-and-vermouth namesake. One chocolate martini could run around 450 calories. You're better off sipping on wine, for around 100 to 125 calories a glass (bonus: it's the drink that usually lasts the longest). Get a sweet fix later by eating a piece of dark chocolate rather than drinking it.
It might be easy to keep store-bought wine coolers on hand in the summer, but the mixture of wine, fruit juices, added sugar, and a carbonated drink could mean up to 250 calories per 12-ounce serving. Glassman says to make your own spritzer instead: "Use wine, club soda, and fresh fruit," she says. "Both red and white wine are nutritional superstars, with tons of research supporting the benefits of resveratrol in red wine and the antioxidant power of white wine." Plus, you're getting your sweetener the natural way with fruit.
Gin & Tonic
Common misconception: gin & tonic is a modest option in the calorie department. Reality: there's a ton of sugar in tonic water, making one serving of this drink around 200 or 250 calories. Taub-Dix suggests asking for diet tonic water or club soda with a splash of lime instead.
Rum & Coke
Mixing Coca-Cola and rum gives you a drink that clocks in at around 250 calories, not to mention a serious sugar high. Taub-Dix recommends making yours with a diet soda to cut back on calories big time.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, July 2013.
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The 9 Worst Cocktails for Weight Loss
It's summertime, and all you want to do is sip a cool cocktail under the sun. We hear you. But before you pop in that little pink umbrella, make sure you choose your cocktail carefully for your health and waistline. Here, the biggest cocktail calorie bombs of the season.