Throughout the year, it is relatively easy for me to avoid beverages that contain calories. But around the holidays, that is a different story. There is fruit punch, hot cocoa, apple cider and, of course, cocktails. There are a few quick and easy substitutions that can help reduce calories while not compromising the flavor.
Create beautiful garnishes
After all, we do eat with our eyes. Garnishes can easily be overlooked but they are a way to take an ordinary drink such as soda water to something extraordinary. Garnishes can also impart extra flavors.
• Include fruit like cranberries, pomegranate seeds, thin apple slices, star fruit, or blood orange slices. Fruit can be mixed into the beverage, floated on top, or placed on the rim of the glass.
• Another way to add color and excitement to your drinks is to add sprigs of fresh herbs; this time of year think of rosemary, thyme and mint.
• Don't forget the spices, top with a cinnamon stick, anise stars or sliced ginger.
• Make decorative ice cubes. Fill ice cube trays with fruit and herbs before filling with water. Use these ice cubes as a way to fill up the glass and keep your beverage cool but also add a splash of color and hint of favor.
• Be mindful of, but don't be afraid to add some sweet garnishes. A mini candy cane or 10 mini marshmallows will add sweetness and flavor but only 16 calories and 4 grams of sugar.
• Ditch the tonic and lemon lime sodas for diet versions or soda water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Eight ounces of tonic water contains 83 calories and 21 grams of sugar. Eight ounces of lemon-lime soda such as 7-Up and Sprite contains 93 calories and 25 grams of sugar. Diet sodas or soda water do not contain any calories.
• Swap out full-calorie sweetener like simple syrup and flavored syrups for extract. A dash of vanilla, mint or almond extract can add a lot of sweet flavor with minimal calories.
• Look for diet juices. There are some new brands of juices that contain significantly fewer calories. Swapping regular cranberry juice cocktail for diet cranberry juice saves you 105 calories and 24 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving.
Be aware of alcohol servings. In general, one serving of alcohol is 12 ounces of a lighter style beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of a 80-proof distilled spirit; and these drinks contain approximately 150 calories. However, around the holidays, many cocktails contain sweeter-style cordials, brandies and ports. And we can't forget the fat component of some of these cocktails added as butter, cream and batter.
A simple rule I like to follow for keeping cocktails lighter is to pick a distilled spirit and one or two mixers. Try gin with apple cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick and sliced apple. Try flavored vodka with a splash of cranberry juice and topped off soda water, garnished with a squeeze of lime and orange and garnished with mint.
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At Christmas play and make good cheer For Christmas comes but once a year. - Thomas Tusser