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Healthy and Unhealthy Summer Drinks

Which alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks are the healthiest for summertime drinking? Experts give their advice.
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Think Before Ordering continued...

Other summer favorites go down easy but contain a lot of sugar, sometimes too much sodium, and calories galore. "I saw a billboard for [a famous rum]," says Audrey T. Cross, PhD, nutrition professor at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, "that said, 'Drink this with Diet Coke -- zero carbs.'

"Well, it might have been zero carbs, but it was not zero calories," Cross says. "Don't forget, alcohol gets digested; it doesn't stay in your bloodstream."

As a rule of thumb, distilled alcohol is about 100 calories an ounce.

"Make the margarita lighter," Blue advises. "Less tequila, more ice."

Cross and Blue both say gin and tonic is the "perfect" summer alcohol drink. "This is the healthiest drink on earth," jokes Blue. "The gin is a diuretic, the tonic keeps away malariamalaria. I never get malaria!"

Cross uses diet tonic and a whole lime for plenty of vitamin C. "On the second one," she whispers, "I leave out the gin. You can't taste the difference."

Cross also professes a fondness for mint juleps. Use only fresh mint, she says, and don't crush it into the sugar in the glass; use a mortar and pestle. "You can get the mint oils out with less sugar that way," she says, crediting her mother for this advice.

Blue also says a Tom Collins (lemon juice, gin, sugar, club soda, and a cherry), is a fine summer drink.

Spritzers are also fairly healthful. You cut the wine with club soda. "You can use white Zinfandel, white wine, red wine -- anything you have," Blue says. To make it sangria, dump in cut fruit.

Commercial wine coolers, though, tend to contain a lot of calories and chemicals.

What about the summer favorite -- beer? Beer contains a number of nutrients, Cross acknowledges, and has been consumed for millennia. "Like any liquid calories, it goes down so easily," she sighs. Remember, a beer contains a shot of ethanol, just like a glass of wine or a gin and tonic.

Nonalcoholic Drinks

The No. 1 summer drink? Water! It can be bottled, filtered, or the water cooler variety. "If you get sick of it," Cross says, "try icing a pitcher of it with cut lemons and limes packed in it. Freeze fruit in cubes and use those."

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