Between the crazy highs and unseasonably low temperatures this past week in CT (and freakish Tornadoes) it is hard to believe Memorial Day is just around the corner. However, you know it, people will be firing up their grills and breaking out the dogs and burgers. Rather than throwing caution to the wind and deciding you’ll jump on the latest detox diet Tuesday, why not stay ahead of the game? There are plenty of ways to keep your long weekend healthy and tasty!
Sip Responsibly this Memorial Day
Yes – I know this a no brainer! But seriously Memorial Day seems like the official kick off for summer drinking. As if people need a reason to drink, right? However, if you are going to imbibe then why not choose to do so responsibly.
Numero uno – avoid the carb bombs. Margaritas, frozen drinks and unfortunately the likes of craft beers tend to be very calorie and carbohydrate heavy. While Craft beers range in calories most clock in at about 200 – 250 calories per 12-ounce bottle. Thinking about knocking back 2-3? You are looking at an upward of 600 calories in alcohol alone.
Side note – back in the day when I used to bartend I would start my shift by making 5 gallon tubs of margaritas. In each batch I would put two full pounds of quick dissolve sugar! Yes – holy moley is right! Sugar rush for sure.
Instead, opt for clear spirits like vodka, gin, and rum mixed with a no/low-calorie mixer. For example, a Titos and Club Soda will only set you back about 95 calories. Plus did you know flavored vodkas (think Stoli Raspberry, Absolut Melon, Pinnacle Whipped Cream) have the same amount of calories as plain vodka? So you can even get fancy and mix a flavored vodka with a flavored club soda squeeze some lime on top and there you have your new favorite skinny summer cocktail.
Or if hard liquor is not your style – choose a light beer and you are only looking at about 100 calories as well. A glass of white or red wine is about 150 calories. Want to cut those those calories in half? Make yourself a wine spritzer! Fill a wine glass with crushed ice. Then pour 2-3 ounces of wine and 3-6 ounces of your favorite seltzer into a wine glass. Top with sliced fruit. Whallah!
Are the above options not really your jam? How about a low-calorie mojito? Coconut Water and Champagne Punch anyone? These low calorie cocktail from Proof are perfect for those watching their waistline. And let’s be honest – who IS NOT watching those waistlines!
Who says cocktails have to be unhealthy? Not this RD.
Photo by: Monika Grabkowska
Want more information about the calorie counts of your favorite beverages? Check out one of my recent posts on this very topic!
Pump up the Veggies
Often at picnics there are more veggies available than one might think. Sometimes you just need to do a little searching. Crudite platters, tossed salads and even the infamous toppings for burgers are all good places to get those veggies in.
Are you trying to watch your carbs? Why not try a lettuce wrap instead of a bun? After all, if 5 Guys offers this option it has to be good, right? You can save yourself 200 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates by this simple little swap.
Does the green salad look a little weak? Why not grab some of the ‘fixins’ for the burgers (think lettuce, tomato, onions) and ‘doctor’ up the salad (on your own plate, of course!) Or even better yet – offer to bring a kick-ass salad or some sort of veggie based side. Both options often require very little prep aside from assembly. This way you know you will have something to round your plate out aside from Grandma’s tuna mac salad 🙂
Don’t go Hungry
This rule holds fast for any type of celebration. Never. Ever. Ever. Go to an event hungry.
I repeat. Never. Ever. Ever. Go to an event hungry.
Most of my patients head to an event like a Memorial Day picnic with the mentality they are going to save all their calories for the day for one big meal. They plan to white- knuckle it the whole day until they get to the picnic. This backfires HARD pretty much every time. As soon as they see the food they everything short of bury their face in pretty much everything and anything that is out.
Instead plan accordingly. Have a light breakfast or snack prior to the picnic. Scrambled eggs and fruit, greek yogurt with 1-2 tablespoons of granola, an apple with peanut butter or something even as small as nuts or a cheese stick will keep your hunger at bay.
I much rather see you spend more time on the ‘front end’ in preparing than leave the picnic feeling big, bloated and polluted with an underlying sense of guilt. We all know this feeling! But YOU are stronger than this. Don’t allow yourself to be defeated. Instead plan ahead like the champ you are and leave the picnic with your rock-star status intact.
Keep it Lean and and No one will be Mean
Be a lean mean grilling machine at your next BBQ. After all, nobody goes to a BBQ saying, “I cannot wait to eat super sloppy BBQ food.” If you are the grillmaster instead choose lean cuts of protein to throw on the coals. Your guests will thank you!
Think 93 % lean ground beef, flank steak, grilled chicken breast marinated in a little balsamic, rosemary and oil, or even a veggie burger (just watch the sodium on those puppies some brands are crazy high!)
Truth bomb – many people opt for a turkey burger thinking it is the best choice. Best as we know is a relative term. Well, it’s not a horrible choice but is it the best choice? I am not so sure.
Did you know that beef burgers and turkey burgers often contain the SAME amount of calories and fat?
Did you know a turkey burger made from “LEAN” ground turkey has just about the same amount of calories and fat (150 – 170 calories & 7 -10 grams of fat for a 4 oz. patty) as a burger made from ground sirloin (93 % lean ground beef)? Lean ground turkey is generally a mix of light and dark meat. So if you are craving a nice juicy burger but are feeling guilty about eating red meat please don’t!
The only exception from a ground turkey standpoint is when the package states “EXTRA” lean. This type of ground turkey has virtually no fat, is expensive and in my humble opinion does not taste very good. It is certainly not good for burgers on the grill. With virtually no fat the burger will be unfortunately very dry.
Be a Good Friend
From my experience as someone who loves to host parties and tells everyone NOT to bring anything – never believe the host. They lie. I love it when someone brings something. SO be that good friend and come bearing food 🙂 This is your prime opportunity to bring something healthy that everyone (including yourself) will likely enjoy.
I can’t tell you how many times my patients say, “There was nothing healthy to eat so I had to eat crap.” Really? Come on my friend. No need to be so lazy! Get off your little butt and avoid all those excuses.
Remember it does not have to be something fancy, complicated or expensive. Heck stop at Costco and grab a veggie platter for $9.99 or a simple fruit bowl (also may I add for only $9.99 at Costco). Even a big old tub of hummus with a bag of baby carrots will likely be appreciated. Pick up a whole watermelon and bring that! After all, who doesn’t like juicy watermelon? The list of healthy options you can bring are seemingly endless.
Be a bestie and don’t forget to bring a healthy dish!
Want to step up your grame? Why not make a killer salad with everything but the kitchen sink in it? That way you can take whatever comes off the grill and and throw it on top of the salad. You will be surprised how many guests will follow suit. Because like I said, even though Memorial Day is typically synonymous with unhealthy foods, it does not have to be. More people than not are working hard to improve their health. Give people a handful of healthy options and they will thank you for it. A little effort goes a long way!
So whether or not it feels that way right now – Memorial Day will soon be here. While I am by no means asking you to be a saint (what fun would that be?) – why not start the summer season on a good foot? You have worked SO hard all winter. Let’s go into summer strong!
How do you anticipate to survive Memorial Day like a champ? What are your tried-and-true tips for a healthy summer holiday weekend? Leave your favorites in the comments below!
Alcohol 101: How can alcohol fit into my diet?
One of the common questions I receive in my practice is, how can alcohol fit into my diet? Honestly, as an RD I have nothing against alcohol. In fact, if you were to review many of my customized meal plans you would see I actually purposely put alcohol on my patient’s meal plans. While, I personally can count on one hand how many drinks I have in the course of a year it does not by any means make me a hater. Honestly, it seems like I did SOOOO much drinking before I turned 21 (many, many, many moons ago!) that when I finally did actually reach the legal drinking age – I was all set 🙂 SO I will cheer YOU on!
However, as we all know calories in drinks can add up fast. And as a result, instead of seeing results, patients remain “stuck” in a weight loss plateau. Sound familiar?
Since alcohol is a pretty much part of just about every social occasions including family parties and nights out with friends seems like it would be worth chatting about. Right? Whether you are trying to lose weight or build muscle, drinking alcohol too frequently can get in the away of your goals (shocker right?!). However, this does not mean you have to give up the occasional drink or night out with friends. Rather, just do so in moderation. And follow my tips for making the best choices when it comes to alcohol. Winner, winner, winner chicken dinner!
What is a standard drink?
First things first. Before we talk about how alcohol can fit into your diet we probably need to define an alcoholic drink. Most people are surprised to learn what counts as a standard drink. The amount of liquid in your glass doesn’t always match up to the alcohol content of your drink. Different types of beer, wine, and hard liquor can have different percentages of alcohol content.
In the U.S., a standard drink contains roughly 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol.
One standard drink includes:
12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol content
5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol content
1.5 ounces or a shot of 80-proof distilled spirits of liquor with 40% alcohol content
What has more calories: beer, distilled spirits, or wine?
The calories per each standard drink are as follows:
• 1.5 ounce drink of distilled spirits (40 % alcohol) is 98 calories, 0 g CHO, 0 g Pro, and 0 g Fat.
• 12 ounce drink of regular beer (5 % alcohol) is about 150 calories, 13 g CHO, 2 g Pro, 0 g Fat.
• 5 ounce drink of wine (12 % alcohol) is about 120 calories, 4 g CHO, 0 g Pro, 0 g Fat.
What are the current recommendations for alcohol?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans alcohol recommendations differ for men and women. Women are encouraged to limit alcohol to up to 1 drink per day. While men have a slightly longer leash of up to 2 drinks per day. The Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason. Translation – there is no nutritional value to drinking. Therefore, no need to establish a “new” habit if you don’t already have one.
Aint’ that the truth ?!?
The Dietary Guidelines also warn about the side effects of excessive drinking. These include: binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people under the age of 21. Binge drinking is defined as drinking more than 4 drinks during a single occasion for women and more than 5 drinks during a single occasion for men. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. If you are confused, please see above to see what counts as a standard drink.
Consequently, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems. These may include hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Not to mention liver disease, digestive problems, cancer, learning and memory problems, mental health problems, social problems, and alcoholism. And how about them calories?
What does my drink ‘cost’ me?
I have done my best to establish a list of what I would consider commonly consumed alcoholic drinks. As mentioned previously, the calorie counts mentioned above are just for the alcohol. They do not address the multitude of beverages alcohol can be mixed with. My list below does include the mixers. The list is comprehensive but by no means all inclusive. Furthermore, don’t quote me on all the values – they are more or less estimates and refer to a standard drink. Depending upon who is making your drink – they may pour more or less alcohol and/or add more or less juice/soda/tonic/mix.
If you do not find your drink of choice on this list, you can check out Calorie King for additional nutrition information.
Now that you know the numbers – let’s get down to the basics.
Be mindful of the mixers
The addition of juices, sodas, and sugary syrups are a caloric and sugar force to be reckoned with. And just because your drink is “clear” does not by any means it is free of calories. There’s a common misconception that tonic water is the same as seltzer water, but it actually contains a lot of calories and sugar. Or some folks think because their drink is mixed with juice – it is a better choice. Most juices contain at least 110 calories and 25 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving. So you add in a shot of alcohol and you are looking at + 220 calorie plus drink. While this may seem somewhat benign when you are on a calorie budget every calorie counts.
Instead try herb infusions, flavored club soda, or a squeeze of citrus. And if you choose so, use diet soda instead of sodas laden with sugar. Below are examples of low calorie mixers.
* Diet soda or diet tonic: 0 calories
* Light orange juice (8 oz): 50 calories
*Diet cranberry juice (8 oz): 5 calories
*Light cranberry juice (8 oz): 40 calories
*Light lemonade (8 oz): 5 calories
*Baja Bob’s sugar-free margarita or sweet ‘n’ sour mix: 0 calories
*Lemon or lime juice (1/2 oz): 10 calories
*DaVinci or Torani’s sugar-free syrups: 0
Keep it Simple
Or you can even skip the mixer altogether. Try ordering your favorite spirit or one of the new flavored liquors on the rocks (translation just on ice). Infused and ‘flavored’ vodkas are very popular because they are not sweetened but infused with flavor. There are a whole host of flavors ranging from jalapeno to peach to blueberry, to lechee fruit. You name it – there is probably an infused liquor with your favorite flavor. And best of all the flavor exists without adding any extra calories. The alcohol itself has calories (9 calories/gram) but you are saving on the calories from the mixer without compromising taste.
One of my favorite things to do (for the handful of drinks I have per year) is to make my own infused tequila. I take a whole pineapple and slice it into small disks. Next, I take about 4-5 jalapenos – seeds and all and chop them up. I then put the sliced pineapple and peppers into a tall glass pitcher. Next, I pour 2-3 cups of tequila over the fruit and peppers. I cover the mixture let it sit for about 4-5 days. Each day I muddle the mixture with a wooden spoon to release the juices and oils. Once the mixture is good and spicy I strain the liquid through a fine sieve and throw out the fruit and peppers. Lastly, I refrigerate the tequila until I am ready to use it for spicy margaritas! Yum!
Settle for a “spritzer”
Sounds pretty fancy, right? If you just want to be social and club soda won’t cut it with the company you’re keeping, ask for a wine spritzer, heavy on the spritz. All this is wine mixed with club soda. If you want to get extra fancy you can even try some of the zero calorie flavored seltzers to pump up the flavor.
You knew this was coming. Alcohol is a diuretic. Replacing fluid, particularly in warmer climates (hello Caribbean vaca), is essential. Calories (and sugar!) aside, try to make every other drink either club soda, sparkling water, or just plain water. Adding ice cubes to your beverage will help hydrate you and also make your glass of booze feel bigger.
Volunteer to be the DD
The best way to prevent alcohol from derailing your diet is to avoid drinking altogether. Why not volunteer to be the DD (designated driver) and save your group taxi or Uber costs by offering to drive? While it may not be as fun as indulging with your group, you’re the one who’ll wake up the next day without a food or alcohol hangover. And as we all know that feels pretty dang good.
Bottom line – If you budget your calories carefully, you can safely “afford” to have a drink or two on a special occasion. But drinker be ware. Drinking loosens your inhibitions and may prompt unconscious eating. Additionally, drinking alcohol can also make you feel hungrier because alcohol can lower your blood sugar. SO why not grab a quick bite before you imbibe? Some good pre-party noshes: a small meal or snack containing fiber, protein and healthy fat. These might include a low-sodium chicken soup, greek yogurt and fruit, low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crackers, or a handful of nuts.Therefore, from a health standpoint, calories aren’t the only thing to consider. Practice moderation and always, always, always have a designated driver. Heck call me – and I will come get you!