In one of the more unfair laws of the universe, alcohol isn’t exactly a health elixir. Liberator of deep, dark secrets, yes. “You have dance moves like Beyoncé and need to share them with the world” cheerleader, sure. But whether you’re trying to lose weight or generally live a healthy life, a frequent drinking habit doesn’t usually fit in the picture.
Luckily, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to give it up for good—indulging is a necessary part of maintaining a good outlook on food (and your sanity). Here, 11 registered dietitians, aka those healthy-living paragons who know how to eat well even when getting Chinese takeout and fast food, share the alcoholic drinks they choose when it’s time to unwind.
1. A vodka seltzer with lemon or lime
“There’s a common misconception that tonic water is the same as seltzer water, but it actually contains a lot of calories and sugar. I opt for seltzer, which is just water with bubbles, instead. A squeeze of either lemon or lime gives the drink a healthy (and sugar-free) boost of flavor!” —Rebecca Ditkoff, R.D., CUNY School of Public Health and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
2. A bloody mary, extra spicy
“I especially love when they come with pickles, olives, or other fun garnishes. I prefer bloody marys to sweet drinks because the extra sugar in most cocktails gives me a terrible hangover. Also, when a drink is super spicy, it slows down my drinking and encourages me to have a sip of water between each sip of alcohol.” —Abbey Sharp, R.D., Abbey’s Kitchen
3. A glass of pinot noir or champagne
“I rarely pick a mixed drink as the added sugar and calories are just not worth it for me. I like a glass of red wine, preferably a pinot noir as it has a high concentration of antioxidants including polyphenols, flavonoids, and resveratrol. And of course, I appreciate the occasional glass of French champagne because life’s too short not to.” —Denise Julia Garbinski, M.B.A., R.D.N. of Botanical Nutrition Therapy
4. A Johnny Walker Black and Diet Coke
“I’ll get flack for this—many whiskey-lovers make fun of me for mixing the good stuff with Diet Coke, but that’s just my taste preference. I also ask the bartender to use a jigger so I know how much alcohol is mixed in.” —Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes For Every Meal Of The Day
5. A low-calorie version of a cosmopolitan
“It’s raspberry-infused vodka, club soda, and a splash of lime and cranberry juice. Even though fruit juices contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, they also contain a high amount of natural sugar, which can add up in a drink. Just a splash of the cranberry juice adds enough flavor, but keeps the calories in check.” —Dawn Orsaeo, R.D., L.D.N.
6. A Moscow mule with a twist
“My absolutely favorite for the summer is a Moscow mule with ginger beer, vodka, lime juice, and lots of ice, skipping the simple syrup. It’s so refreshing, and when you don’t use simple syrup, it’s only around 80 calories.” —Molly Morgan, R.D., C.D.N., C.S.S.D., owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions
7. A scotch on the rocks
“My favorite is Macallan 12-year aged scotch. I like to avoid sugary mixers like juice, and since scotch is stronger, I sip it slower and one glass can last me the whole evening.” —Rebecca Lewis, in-house R.D. at HelloFresh
8. Silver tequila on the rocks or with soda plus lime juice or an orange slice
“Silver tequila usually has less sugar in it than brown tequila or other brown liquors. I skip the sugary mixers and drink it straight up or with no-calorie club soda and a little flavor from a splash of citrus.” —Sarah Rueven, R.D., owner of Sarah Rueven Nutrition
9. An ice cold beer
“A true Wisconsin native, I’m especially a fan of a nice hoppy craft brew. Not only do I enjoy the flavor complexities a craft beer has to offer, beer gives you the most volume for about the same total of calories and alcohol as wine and spirits, meaning it takes longer to drink and therefore helps moderate total alcohol consumption.” —Emily Brown, R.D.N., L.D., wellness dietitian at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program
10. A toned-down mojito
“I love the mint and lime in a mojito, but I find many places make them too sweet, so I get a sugarless mojito with extra lime. Most of the time, the mint and extra lime are enough flavor for me. If I’m feeling like it needs a little extra sweetness, I’ll add my own sugar or stevia. I end up with a perfect drink every time.” —Dina Garcia, R.D.N., mindful eating coach and founder of Vida Nutrition
11. A glass of sauvignon blanc or a simple marg
“I don’t worry about calories or sugar. I drink my favorite wine of choice—Sauvignon Blanc—or a margarita on the rocks with salt (no mix, just straight tequila, lime, and agave). I know I can drink two beverages, enjoy the taste, and still get up for yoga the next morning!” —Laura Cipullo, R.D., C.D.N., C.D.E., C.E.D.R.D., owner of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition