Most of the energy-dense drinks we consume provide no valuable nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fibre or phytonutrients. Your main source of calories should be your food and not your drinks, as food generally contains more nutrients.
Here are a few guidelines on how to reduce the calories we get from drinks:
1. Start off well-hydrated
A common mistake is to go straight for the alcoholic drinks the moment you arrive at a social event.
Rather relax and order water with your first drink order – first enjoy a glass of still or sparkling water before moving on to the stronger stuff. This will make sure you’re hydrated, which will prevent you from using alcohol to quench your thirst.
During a long social event, drink a glass of water between every alcoholic drink. This will keep you hydrated and prevent you from consuming too many alcoholic beverages.
2. Cut down on sugar
Drinks are often high in empty calories due to their high sugar content. Excessive sugar intake can contribute to metabolic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, as sugars promote inflammatory processes in the body.
One way to reduce the sugar content is to dilute your drinks with water or ice if you can. Be careful of drink mixes that contain large amounts of sugar. For example, a small can (200ml) of tonic water contains four teaspoons of sugar.
Go for sugar-free alternatives such as Woolworths sugar-free tonic water, sugar free Ginger Ale, Soda Water, Sprite Zero or Coke Zero. You can also try sugar-free cordials (available in many flavours) that you can add to water or soda water, such as Brookes Low-Cal or Slimsy.
3. Use ‘Mother Nature’
Adding herbs, fruit and vegetables to your drinks provides different and interesting flavours, and will reduce your need for sugary mixes. Examples are fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, cucumber, pear, pineapple, thyme, strawberries, basil, oranges etc.
Let still or sparkling water with the food item or herb of your choice stand for at least 30 minutes to infuse it with flavour.
4. Choose wisely
A single beer, two tots of whiskey and a 200ml glass of red or white wine all contain approximately the same amount of alcohol (20g) and energy (600kJ) per drink, which is equivalent to the calories of two slices of bread. The number of drinks we enjoy at social events is often linked to the length of the event.
Choose lower calorie drinks such as a “lite” beer or wine, or order a single instead of a double whiskey, mixed with water or soda water. Ordering non-alcoholic and sugar free drinks interspersed with your alcoholic drinks will help you to consume fewer calories. And be careful of cocktails as they tend to be high in calories.
Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. Missouri (2016).