If youâ€™re like us, maintaining a healthy diet is pretty easy, until happy hour comes around. Thanks to hidden sugars and liqueurs, you can rack up more than 1,000 calories with just three margaritas. But with a few simple tradeoffs, you can customize your cocktails to stay on track with your health, so you can modify â€” not sacrifice â€” your vices.
We talked to registered dietitianÂ Jennifer MajorÂ and got tips to help you indulge without getting off track. Read on for the best swaps for your nine go-to alcoholic drinks.
A happy hour staple, margaritas are perhaps the biggest offenders of the sugary cocktails. â€œI think the trick to your happy hour hack is a splash of the flavor, and keep your base simple. So the base of any of your healthy cocktails should be your liquor of choice with soda water and a splash of your flavor,â€ Major tells Yahoo Beauty. â€œYou can even put the salt on the rim if you want.â€
While you may think that fruit-juice-based cocktails are a simple way to ensure your drink is fairly healthy, they often contain plenty of hidden sugars. â€œAvoid any juices, any regular sodas, and even tonic,â€ says Major. â€œAnything with simple syrup; itâ€™s the loading up on the sugar and the mixers that really gets you in happy hour.â€
Moscow mules may not seem to be particularly sugary, with their ginger beer base and only 150 calories, but Major reminds that having more than one cocktail can add up. â€œYou have two or three Moscow mules, so youâ€™re saving yourself 100 to 150 calories with this hack.â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t sound so bad when you say 240 calories in a mojito, but when you have two or three mojitos, thatâ€™s where itâ€™ll start to get you,â€ says Major. Instead, swap out the sugar-heavy base for soda and you lop off 140 calories.
Plenty of people assume that this clear, refreshing drink wonâ€™t do much damage to their health, but have more than one and the sugar starts to add up. â€œItâ€™s a 45-calorie tradeoff. No big deal. But letâ€™s say you get three gin and tonics, thatâ€™s saving you 135 calories that you can use elsewhere, or just not have,â€ says Major.
For wine and beer drinkers, youâ€™re not at a loss either. â€œUnless you want to water down your wine or beer, which I donâ€™t think you do, thereâ€™s no way to hack it,â€ says Major. â€œItâ€™s not the end of the world; the tradeoff there is youâ€™ve just got to come up with your food equivalent. Youâ€™re at happy hour to drink, so drink like you should at happy hour and forgo some of the snacks.â€
You donâ€™t have to sacrifice your favorite specialty cocktails either. Be mindful of the ingredients that could rack up empty calories, and ask the bartender to leave them out. â€œYou canâ€™t have any shame if youâ€™re going out to your specialty bars. With waiters or bartenders, itâ€™s their job is to cater to you and make you happy with what youâ€™ve ordered to eat or to drink,â€ says Major. â€œSo ask them to forgo the simple syrups or any kind of liqueurs. Liqueur is a good indicator that itâ€™s going to be a more syrupy drink.â€
She continues, â€œAsk them to tailor it. Ask for your specialty cocktail, but say, â€˜Can I get soda water and a splash of the cherry syrup or whateverâ€™s in there?â€™â€