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Happy Hour: 5 Tips for Diet Friendly Cocktails

Mojito Janine

No matter what diet you choose to follow, in the end, you need to burn more calories than you take in if you want to lose weight. So eliminating what many might call the "frivolous calories" of your weekly cocktail ritual with friends and co-workers seems like an easy place to start. Of course, with all of the stresses that you already have in your life, which you've now added to by starting a weight loss program, giving up your favorite mixed drink is the last thing you want to do. However, there are solutions to every problem and here are five ways you can limit those calories and still enjoy yourself.

1. If you're a vodka drinker, there are a couple of very easy changes you can make that will reduce the numbers of calories in each of your drinks. For starters, 100-proof vodka contains 82 calories per ounce while 80-proof vodka only contains 64. That's more than a 20% decrease in calories per drink right off the bat. Next, if you typically order a vodka and orange juice, it's time to switch to club soda. There are 75 calories in six ounces of orange juice and zero in club soda. You've just saved 93 calories per drink so bottoms up!

2. As with vodka, any type of alcohol with a lower proof rating is going to be lower in calories. So if you can find a vodka, rum or gin you enjoy that has a lower proof, you will be well on your way to saving some happy hour calories. When it comes to the classic rum and coke, the weight conscious choice is even simpler: go with diet coke instead. If you don't mind what some see as a subtle change in flavor, you will be sipping a very waistline friendly 110-calorie cocktail. It doesn't get much better than that.

3. Lowering the calorie count is not always about just changing the mixer and choosing a lower proof alcohol. You can have a fancy mixed drink and still watch your weight at the same time, you just need to make good choices, and they're not always obvious. Here are three popular cocktails and their associated calories: Long Island iced tea: 780 calories; Mai Tai: 350 calories; Green apple martini: 148 calories. Now of course everyone's tastes differ, but if you do a little research, there are definitely choices out there that will keep you from feeling guilty about busting your diet on too many empty calories.

4. Two more classic cocktails that will fit nicely into your calorie watching plan are mojitos and bloody marys. At 150 and 160 calories respectively, each can certainly be enjoyed in moderation while dieting. However, there's a caveat with both of these multi-ingredient drinks: no bartender "specials". Be sure to tell the person making the drink that you don't want it "strong" and to let you know of anything extra they put into these two cocktails to make it their own signature drink. Any additions are sure to add calories you won't realize were there until the next time you get on the scale.

5. Last but not least, wine or beer can certainly be your choice of beverage if you follow a few simple rules. For beer, choose a light beer that will have less calories and remember that a bottle of beer is 12 ounces and a pint is 16 ounces when you're doing your calorie accounting. With wine, be sure you're not stretching the limits of what "a glass" is as a reasonable pour should have between 125-150 calories, but can multiply quickly if you're not being careful about refills and top-offs.

Drinking in moderation is good advice no matter whether you're dieting or not. As with many foods and beverages, there are health risks involved in over indulging that go beyond weight gain. For those that don't want to eliminate their social drinking routine as part of their weight reduction plan, these tips are a good place to start.

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