Tips for Keeping Cocktails Low-Calorie
First of all, avoid sugary bases for drinks, including syrups, regular soda, and juice "imposters" (juice "drinks" that aren't 100% fruit juice).
Use strong-flavored garnishes that add a lot of flavor for little to no calories. A wedge of lemon, lime or orange and fresh mint leaves add bursts of flavor without adding tons of calories.
Opt for margaritas and other summer drinks without sugar on the rim. Although the sugar makes the drink look pretty, it adds extra calories unnecessarily.
Seltzer water (sparkling water) is a great base for low-calorie drinks because it provides fun bubbles but is calorie-free. Other low-calorie bases include diet sodas (fruity sodas provide amazing flavor) or light lemonades or fruit-flavored mixes (like those by Crystal Light, Minute Maid Light or similar brands).
Additionally, consider blending your beverages with ice to give them more volume, which will not only fill you up faster, but will trick your eyes into thinking you're eating a lot more.
To make enjoying a low-calorie cocktail even easier, consider purchasing pre-made light cocktail mixes.
This traditional cocktail gets a makeover when you use diet lemon-lime soda to halve the calories and provide a flavorful, fun fizz. Combine 8 ounces of diet lemon-lime soda with a shot (1.5 ounces) of vodka and a shot of orange juice. Pour over ice, garnish with orange slices or orange peel, and enjoy for just 138 calories.
Peachy Keen Chiller
Nothing screams summer like fresh, juicy peaches. In a blender, combine a shot of white rum, 1 medium (2-2/3 in diameter) chopped & peeled peach, 1 cup cold Ocean Spray Diet Cranberry Juice, the juice of 1 lime, and a handful of ice cubes. Sip this frozen fruity concoction for a mere 171 calories.
Lean Piña Colada
Skip the usual fat- and sugar-laden piña coladas and swap out several high-calorie ingredients to create a lightened-up version of this popular Caribbean cocktail. To prepare, throw ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks, ½ cup pineapple juice, 1 shot coconut-flavored rum, ¼ cup light coconut milk into a blender. Blend until smooth, add 3-4 ice cubes, and blend again. This lighter version clocks in at 244 calories, a far cry from a typical piña colada, which contains over 500 calories.
Who would think a cotton-candy inspired drink would be low-calorie? To whip up this sweet sip, combine ½ cup seltzer water, 2 Tbsp pineapple juice, 1 shot vanilla vodka, and 1 tsp of grenadine and serve over ice for a measly 132 calories.
An easy, low-calorie adult beverage for chocolate lovers: Simply prepare 1 packet of diet hot chocolate (25 calorie version) according to packet directions, add 1.3 ounces Bailey's Irish Cream, and pour over ice for a slim 119 calories.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.