Bikini-friendly beverages: Enjoy these beers and seltzers without guilt
During summer, Midwesterners enjoy a warm lake breeze as the sun beats down onto their bronzed skin. Beachbodies make an appearance thanks to sacrifice and self control. As the sun encourages a hearty thirst, some Americans turn to alcoholic options that coincide with their health-conscious lifestyle.
"As the industry itself has caught on with people wanting low-calorie options, they're now providing information on the packages," says Dustin Mitzel, CEO of Happy Harry's Bottle Shops, which has five stores in Fargo and Grand Forks. "For years there really wasn't any nutritional or calorie information on alcoholic products — it was just something that wasn't done."
Years ago, health conscious individuals didn't have many options when it came to alcoholic beverages. But when Michelob Ultra came out in 2002, it started the low-carb, low-calorie movement in the liquor industry, Mitzel says.
Mitzel says he saw evidence of this at the Fargo Marathon. Different athletic sponsorship and commercials on TV showed young people working out, then enjoying a Michelob Ultra.
"It took a number of years for others (in the industry) to catch up," he says.
Spirits, wines and coolers have taken note, introducing their own products catering to health-conscious individuals.
Low 'cal' brews
Most domestic light beers sit right around 100 calories, but some of those same brands have brewed even lower-calorie beers.
"With that, comes less alcohol, so instead of being at 4.2 Alcohol by Volume (ABV) you're probably closer to 2.6 or 2.8," Mitzel says. "There are some trade-offs when it comes to that."
The newest trend in light beers is adding flavor, creating a different experience for those looking to deviate from "regular beer" from time to time. Bud Light introduced Bud Light Lime, Michelob Ultra added Amber and Lime Cactus and so on.
• Bud Light: 110 calories, 4.2 percent ABV, 6.6 grams of carbs
• Bud Select 55: 55 calories, 2.4 percent ABV, 1.8 grams of carbs
• Coors Light: 102 calories, 4.2 percent ABV, 5 grams of carbs
• Miller Lite: 96 calories, 4.2 percent ABV. 3.2 grams of carbs
• Miller 64: 64 calories, 2.4 grams of carbs
• Michelob Ultra: 95 calories, 4.2 percent ABV, 2.6 grams of carbs
• Busch Light: 95 calories, 4.1 percent ABV, 3.2 grams of carbs
• Corona Light: 99 calories
"When you see the beer manufacturers and vodka distillers adding a flavor, you know the trend is starting to take effect. And grapefruit right now is the hot, new flavor," he says.
"Last year the hard seltzers came out — like Truly and White Claw," Mitzel says.
This year, many other brands like Smirnoff and Henry's made their own version of seltzers.
"For my friends and people that ask about it, I ask, 'Do you like mineral water?'" Mitzel says. "You kind of have to love that mineral water bitterness — that's the flavor these are going to have, as opposed to a wine cooler or Mike's or something like that."
• Truly Spiked and Sparkling: 100 calories, 5 percent ABV, 1 gram of sugar, gluten-free
• Spiked Seltzer: 140 calories, 6 percent ABV, 5 grams of carbs, gluten-free
• White Claw Hard Seltzer: 110 calories, 5 percent ABV, gluten-free
• Henry's Hard Sparkling: 92 to 93 calories, 4.2 percent ABV, 2.9 grams of carbs
• Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer: 90 calories, 4.5 percent ABV, 1 gram of carb
With so many low-calorie beer options, wine and wine coolers have begun to follow suit.
"The wine has been probably the biggest challenge," Mitzel says. "Now that consumers are starting to see brands like FitVine, you might see the wine side adjust a bit."
FitVine is "about 30 to 50 calories less than their counterparts that are not considered lower-calorie," Mitzel says."With that you do lose a little bit of the flavor just like if you went from Coke to Diet Coke. But the fact that you can have a glass of chardonnay and it's 90 calories as opposed to 125 or 130 — that's a big deal for people."
For specialty mixed drinks like Moscow mules, Mitzel says mixers like diet ginger beer have made their way into the market, further reducing calorie consumption.
"The other trend we're seeing is a lot of people are looking at things like vodka, gin or classic drinks and saying, 'Alright, how can I drink this and not add all the other calories to it?'"
Rather than adding soda, juice or other high-sugar mixers, people are turning to seltzers like La Croix to mix with various spirits, adding bubbles without the calories.
For other health-conscious alcoholic beverage options, try these:
• FitVine Wine: 90 to 95 calories, 13.9 percent ABV, 3 to 3.4 carbs
• Mike's Lite Hard Lemonade: 109 to 119 calories
• Michelob Ultra Light Cider: 120 calories, 4 percent ABV, 10 grams of carbs
Mitzel says, in the end, it all comes down to moderation; drink water in between drinks.
"When you're eating food and you're consuming alcohol, your body wants to process the alcohol before it burns the calories," Mitzel says. "Hydrating yourself, practicing moderation and knowing what you're putting into your drinks all helps to control how many excess calories you're putting into your body."
Although calorie-counting is not an innovative idea, now health-conscious individuals wanting to keep their beach body can enjoy — in moderation — their alcoholic drink of choice.
"I think the information is empowering people and actually forcing the industry to say, 'Alright, we have to make sure we have some labeling that's clear and provides the right information for consumers and let them make the choices.'"