Enjoy your libations, but moderation is key to diet success
With careful planning, any low-carb dieter can lose weight with a drink in their hand and a smile on their face. Bob Skilnik, author of "The Low Carb Bartender: Carb Counts for Beer, Wine, Mixed Drinks and More" suggests that low-carb dieters consider setting up a boozy weight loss plan of attack for the upcoming year.
With the carbohydrate counts of over 1,000 beers, 400 wines, 60 liqueurs, and more than 200 low-carb mixed drink recipes included in The Low Carb Bartender: Carb Counts for Beer, Wine, Mixed Drinks and More, the author agrees with doctors and nutritionists that moderation is the real key to losing weight and keeping it off.
"But before you grab for your favorite libation," advises Skilnik, "keep in mind that the supporting practices of portion control and personal responsibility should lead the pack in your weight loss approach. Some deprivation in eating and drinking choices during the earliest stages of a low-carbohydrate diet should gradually give way to a more moderate approach, with a goal of slow but consistent weight loss, eventually reaching your goal, and most importantly, keeping the weight off."
With this balanced approach in mind, here are a few tips that will help you achieve your weight loss goals while still enjoying a libation or two:
1. Go easy when drinking, but enjoy yourself. Keep in mind that the United States Department of Agriculture classifies "moderate" drinking as one serving of alcohol per day for women, two for men. What's a serving size? 12-ounces for beer, 5-ounces for wine, or 1.5-ounces for a distilled spirit. For anyone watching their carb intake, it's also extremely important to know the carbohydrate count of what you're drinking.
2. Don't generalize the carb counts of adult beverages by assuming that all dry red wines, for instance, have "around 3 carbs per serving." With thousands of labels and vintages for wines on today's market, no two products are the same.
Variables in the fermentation process such as types of grapes used, strains of yeast added to the must, and even the skillful whims of a wine maker who blends the fermented results of various grapes together to achieve a unique taste profile, have an effect on the taste and body of the final products -- and their carbohydrate counts.
3. Sure there's no carbs in most distilled products such as vodka or whiskey, but mixing them with a regular cola or bottled mixers sweetened with high fructose corn syrup is an invitation to a diet disaster. If you're at a party and sugar-free mixers aren't available, use seltzer or soda water to dilute the spirit and save those carbs.
4. Knowing that you're going to have a drink or two at a party, prepare yourself beforehand by eating at home before you imbibe. Never drink on an empty stomach. If you get the munchies while drinking, head toward the appetizer table.
Luckily, many of the traditional snacks found at parties are also low-carb. Think cheese, sliced meats, and raw vegetables dipped in cream-based dips. They'll help keep you from grazing over the high-carb potato chips and pretzels.
5. If you have too many drinks, don't obsess on your frailties. You're only human -- but don't use this slip-up as an excuse to go off your diet regime. "I'll start counting carbs again on Monday," is a mind set that should be avoided, especially when drinking. Alternating each adult beverage with a glass or two of water, or better yet, seltzer water, will help you pace your drinking and fill you up.
To give low-carb dieters a good base for enjoying a libation or two while counting carbs, here are some examples of great tasting low-carb mixed drinks that are also low in alcohol. Cutting the amount of alcohol used in a mixed drink in half will allow you to double up your servings, a trick that will get you through any party without going overboard.
This is a great drink to enjoy during any party when a glass in your hand seems mandatory. Reducing the called for 5-ounce serving size of wine halves both carbs and alcohol.
2.5-ounces red wine
6-ounces seltzer or soda water
1 lemon or lime twist
Fill highball glass with ice. Pour in red wine and seltzer or soda water. Garnish with lemon or lime twist.
Makes 1 serving. 1.94 carbohydrates (using Sutter Home Merlot with 3.8 carbs per 5-ounces)
Demi Panache, Shandy or Radler
Being more of a beer drinker, I wasn't sure if I'd like this blend. I mixed my first Shandy with Minute-Maid Light Lemonade (3 carbs in a 12-ounce can) and found the drink to be a nice summertime Low-Carb Bartender alternative to simply quaffing a cold beer. Shandies are very popular in Europe, especially with younger drinkers. In Germany, this drink is known as a Radler.
6-ounces low-carb beer
6-ounces diet lemonade (or diet lemon-lime soda)
1 thin lemon slice
Pour 6-ounces of ice cold low-carb beer and 6-ounces of diet lemonade into a chilled pilsner glass. Garnish with a thin lemon slice.
Makes 1 serving, 3.75 carbohydrates (using a low-carb beer with 2.5 carbs per 12-ounce serving)
A perfect Low-Carb Bartender alternative during Sunday brunch. Refreshing and low in alcohol.
4-ounces Diet V8 Splash, any flavor
2.5-ounces champagne (or sparkling wine)
Pour Diet V8 Splash into a tall flute glass. Gently top off with cold champagne.
Makes 1 serving, 3.5 carbohydrates (using Indigo Hills Brut Chardonnay Champagne with 4 carbs per 5-ounce serving)
Copyright 2004 Bob Skilnik. Published by Adams Media, an F+W Company. Reprinted with permission.