Tuesday Tools & Tricks #20: The Truth About “Low Cal” Liquor!

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Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Today we are tackling a topic very close to our hearts, because if we hear one more person tell us they are only drinking clear liquor because it is healthier and they are on a diet, we may just go into a rage blackout that never ends.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to shove some truth into the faces of your annoying friends who give you a look every time you order whiskey — it’s time for some myth-busting about the “healthiest” liquors!

Here is the truth: all base liquors, as long as they have not been flavored, have just about the same amount of calories, around 95 per 1.5 oz. Sorry Vodka Tonic drinkers who think you have been choosing the low-cal option, but the old adage that clear liquors are healthier than their dark brethren is just absolute bullshit. (And also: tonic is super high in calories, so you were really just shooting yourself in the foot with that one.)

Most people who ascribe to the clear liquor diet have some sense that because dark liquors like whiskey, tequila, or rum have stronger flavors, they must be less healthy. We wish we had a big gameshow “You Are Incorrect!” buzzer to buzz at moments like these, because boy oh boy are you incorrect. All liquor starts off clear; it is through the aging process that certain liquors are given their color, and also how a lot of the flavor is derived. Yes, whiskey, rum, and vodka are all distilled from different plants and that also accounts for flavor differences, but the fact that whiskey and (certain) rums are aged also significantly contributes to their flavor profile. And guess what? The oak barrels are not magically transferring calories into those liquors.

You have probably also heard people claim that because rum is made from sugarcane and tequila is made from agave that they are less healthy. Wrong again, uninformed dieters of the world! Yes, tequila and rum are made from sugary plants, but the point of the distillation process is to distill out most of what went into the mash to create the liquor, and that means that most of the actual sugar is gone when you get the finished product. And importantly, vodka, gin, whiskey, and nearly every other liquor you can think of is distilled from grain, which are carbohydrates, which break down into sugars. It is all the same stuff guys, exactly the same stuff.

The reality is, if you are trying to seriously watch your caloric intake when it comes to your drinking habits, the best options are to either drink wine or stick with straight liquor. A glass of red wine works out to roughly the same amount of calories as a shot of liquor.

Now, if you are not a person who wants to be doing shots of whiskey, it is important to watch what mixers you use in your drinks. Make sure any juice you use is actual, real, 100% juice. Fresh squeezed OJ or real cranberry juice (NOT cranberry juice cocktail) are great options. When it comes to soda, soda water is your best bet — that really is just carbonated water without other additives. Don’t assume that because tonic and club soda are clear and relatively tasteless that they have no calories, both have a ton of other stuff in them (mainly sugar and salt), and both pack a major caloric punch. If you are thinking that you will just use diet sodas, we kindly ask that you get off that train immediately. There are two important things to remember about the fake sugar used in diet sodas: 1) it is absolutely, disgustingly horrible for you, and 2) it is intentionally made to trick your body into thinking that it is sugar, and so your body processes it as if it were sugar, meaning you are not avoiding the sugar intake you were trying to skirt.

But, all that said, here is the truthiest truth we can give you: calories are not everything. In fact, they are really only one tiny, TINY piece of the puzzle when it comes to health, and too strong a focus on caloric intake alone will come to backfire on you almost immediately. Health is holistic, and attitude is a big part of it. So have a cocktail, it’s all going to be fine.

See you tomorrow, everyone!

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