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Low-Calorie Cocktails

5 ways to keep from overloading on calories when you have an alcoholic drink.

What Makes Calories in Alcoholic Drinks Add Up? continued...

Most glasses of wine contain 125-150 calories, but that can double depending on the size of the glass size and how full it is.  At cocktail or dinner parties, glasses are often refilled before empty, making it especially hard for dieters to track their alcohol and calorie consumption.

Beer can range from 64-198 calories per 12 ounces. Light beers are a better choice because "they contain the same amount of alcohol as regular beers but fewer carbohydrates," says Gerbstadt. And, she adds, "low-carb beer is just another term for light beer."

Another diet destroyer is the rising popularity of super-caloric cocktails.

Some are desserts in disguise, from chocolate martinis to hot buttered rum. Creative cocktails are all the rage, and bartenders are tempting patrons with mega-calorie cocktails like the Key lime pie martini. It's creamy, delicious -- and loaded with calories, from the cream to the graham-cracker crust rim.

"The trend in cocktails is to sugar the rim, add chocolate syrup or any number of creative sweet touches that boost calories, and turn the cocktail into a dessert," says O'Neil.

If you must have one of these, she advises, trim your dinner calories and enjoy your cocktail afterward as a dessert. Better yet, order a small after-dinner liqueur, like Amaretto, over ice and sip it slowly.

And then there are the super-sized drinks. Some chain restaurants serve jumbo drinks, like margaritas with double shots and extra mixers, that could add up to 1,000 calories or more in one mug, Gerbstadt says. A single giant glass of TGI Friday's frozen mudslide, for example, contains 1,100 calories.

5 Tips to Curb Alcohol Calories

So how do you keep those calories in alcoholic drinks from adding up so quickly? Here are five tips from the experts.

1. Alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks to save calories. The savvy dieter finishes one cocktail, glass of wine or beer, then has a "mocktail" -- a nonalcoholic, preferably zero-calorie beverage (like sparkling water with a lime) that looks like the real thing. This strategy not only reduces the risk of over-consuming calories and alcohol, but it also helps you stay hydrated so your head will thank you in the morning!

"It is a good idea to start the evening with a tall glass of water or sparkling water to satisfy your thirst so you won't use the alcoholic beverage to do it for you," adds Gerbstadt.

2. Choose wine, light beer, or simple cocktails made with low-calorie mixers. Just as you might order your salad with dressing on the side, don't be shy about asking for your cocktail your way.

"You can save 100 calories if you have a diet soda as your mixer," says Dawn Blatner-Jackson, MS, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet. 

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