Healthy Drinks for Summer

Heather Bauer

Many of us indulge a bit in the summertime. Whether it's a juicy burger with extra cheese at a cookout or a big slice of red, white and blue cake for Fourth of July weekend, there's nothing wrong with occasionally taking a cheat day on your diet. Just make sure you're celebrating in moderation - and that includes what you're drinking!

Alcohol is often the culprit when people overindulge on holidays. If you think you may kick back with a few brews in the evening, save those carbohydrates for dinner and after-dinner drinks. And make sure you eat enough at your nighttime meal (some protein and a few carbs) to prepare your body for drinking.

I always tell my clients to drink alcoholic beverages they like but don't love. That probably doesn't make sense, does it? Think of it this way: If you're a sucker for Corona, you're likely to have more than a few and thus rack up the calories. If you stick to a beer that you think is fine but isn't your favorite, you're more likely to stay in check. Another tip is to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume. Not only will this keep you hydrated and cut down on your risk of a nasty hangover, but it'll also help give your body a chance to process the alcohol more slowly.

So, if you're following those tips, you should be in the clear. Now, what should you actually be drinking? Here are five suggestions for making low-calorie, guilt-free cocktails that will let you loosen up without tightening your waistband.

Vodka. If you're a vodka drinker, keep it simple. A vodka soda or a vodka tonic are your best bets. Make sure each drink contains only one shot and is mixed with flavored seltzer water, fresh lime or a splash of cranberry juice or lemonade if you'd like a little flavor. I prefer potato-based vodkas because they're gluten-free; my favorites are Tito's or Chopin brand vodkas.

Margarita. These are a fan favorite, but they're also known for being a calorie bomb! Cut down on the calories by switching to a lighter version of the Mexican cocktail you love. Go for tequila on the rocks with the juice of at least half a lime and nothing else.

Beer. The beauty of beer is that its serving size is already accounted for. After all, beers are often served in a single bottle or can. Beer also fills you up so you're less likely to want to keep drinking - although, beware of that bloated feeling! These days, there are many great low-calorie, ultralight beers. Miller64 has only 64 calories per serving, and (Bud) Select 55 is another good, lighter option with only 55 calories.

Wine. In the summertime, people love to drink rose wine. This is great, because you can easily dilute a rose with ice cubes or add some sparkling water to it to make it more refreshing. If you're more of a white wine drinker, spritzers are a great option. And if sangria is your thing, make sure you'll filling your jug with lots of low-cal fruits, such as kiwi, lemons and limes. You can also use seltzer instead of a sugary soft drink in the mix.

Blended drinks. If you're a strawberry daiquiri or pina colada lover, you've really got to watch your servings while drinking. I know it's tempting to go for a delicious, fruity concoction, but they can often pack upwards of 300 calories per glass! For a lighter version, steer clear of mixes. Use fresh fruit and a small amount of juice, and go extra heavy on the ice.

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Heather Bauer, RD, CDN , is a nationally-recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur. She is the author of two top selling books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil. She is the founder of Nu-Train, a nutrition consulting company, and Bestowed, a subscription service that offers consumers a personalized way to discover, sample, shop, and learn about the best nutrition and lifestyle products on the market.