Center City Sips starts June 3, which means you now have an automatic excuse for mid-week, after-work cocktails. Yay! Boasting refreshing drink specials and delicious half-priced apps, the deals last all summer long. That's great for your wallet, but maybe not so great for your waistline. Let's get this straight – in no way should you fear the occasional Happy Hour and assume it will completely derail your healthy lifestyle. But beware, cheap drinks don't give a discount on calories.
Liquor's Calorie Count
Liquor itself does not contain carbs, protein or fat, so how does it have calories? Seven calories per gram, to be exact. A 1.5-ounce shot of liquor (vodka, rum, tequila, bourbon, whiskey, gin, scotch) has about 100 calories. Order it on the rocks, with a twist or a squeeze of citrus, and that's where the calorie-count ends.
Mixers Tipping the Scale
Like to jazz up your booze? Keep an eye on the calories that could be hiding in your mixer of choice. Some popular culprits:
Try pairing your spirit with water, seltzer or calorie-free soda — or consider ordering a flavored vodka (1.5 ounces of Raspberry Smirnoff vodka has about 100 calories and 2 grams of sugar and Malibu rum has about 85 calories and 9 grams of sugar).
Anything that has whipped cream, chocolate syrup, ice cream, caramel drizzle, sugar rimming, candy garnishes or any other sweet decadence imaginable will send you home with more than just a buzz - think 500 to 1000 calories!. Margaritas, mojitos and sangria are not so innocent either.
Wine & Beer
Beer and wine not only have calorie from alcohol, but they also have carbohydrates. For roughly 5 ounces of wine, you're looking at about 120 calories and about 4 grams of carbs. There's a lot more variation for 12 ounces of beer – anywhere from 110-180 calories depending on which brew you choose. For instance, Bud Light has about 110 calories and 7 grams of carbs, Guinness has about 130 calories and 10 grams of carbs and Sam Adams has about 180 calories and 20 grams of carbs.
Once you and your friends reach an agreement on which hot spot you'll be hitting, look up the menu. You won't be as tempted with a million high-calorie options if you decide what to order ahead of time and then stick to your plan. If you know you're typically famished the moment you log off your laptop, throw yourself a pre-game! Try an apple with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, or a few ounces of trail mix.
You've had a few drinks and you're feeling pretty good. Suddenly, you're ordering one of every option on the half-priced menu! Not good. Being tipsy makes it hard for you to pay attention to your hunger cues, which increases your risk for over-eating. If you're sure that you're truly hungry, go forth and snack. Remember, fried and super cheesy foods are going to pack a bigger caloric punch than platters with fruits, veggies and lean protein and spreads like hummus and guacamole. (But beware the bottomless chips!) Consider sharing high-calorie snack orders with friends. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water will keep you hydrated (often we confuse thirst for hunger) and keep you coherent enough to make smart choices all around!
Kerri Link Heckert, a registered dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has been in the fitness and nutrition industry for the past 7 years. She is a yoga instructor (RYT-200), ACSM certified Health Fitness Specialist and certified personal trainer. She earned her Masters at Drexel University and currently lives in the Philadelphia suburbs.