The problem with sweet mixed drinks is they taste so damn good. Unfortunately, these sugary libations could be contributing to your expanding waistline or a slew of other health ailments, including high blood pressure and diabetes. No one is going to put alcohol on the list of health supplements, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a wise choice when it comes to indulging in a fine spirit or two—just know what to avoid. Bet you know at least some of the biggest barroom offenders.
A Jack and Coke typically has around 200 calories per beverage. Knock back three or four with some friends and you’re adding approximately 800 calories to your daily intake, not to mention the sugar and carbs. You’re better off ordering neat or opting for something with club soda instead.
Alternative: Bourbon Rickey
2. Diet Soda
Many people turn to diet sodas when trying to cut out sugar and calories. While you are avoiding the extra calories and high-fructose corn syrup, you’re still consuming an abundance of artificial sweeteners and other chemicals. A 2013 study conducted by Northern Kentucky University also suggests that diet soda mixed with alcohol may lead to faster intoxication than if you were to consume regular soda in your mixed drink.
Alternative: Vodka Soda
3. Pre-Made Mixes
Found in all kinds of sugary concoctions from Margaritas to Piña Coladas, pre-packaged mixers are loaded with sweeteners and artificial ingredients. A typical 4-ounce serving of Margarita mix contains 24 grams of sugar, while 3.5 ounces of Piña Colada mix delivers 42 grams of the sweet stuff.
4. Energy Drinks
Sugar and caffeine may work if you’re cramming for finals, but energy drinks aren’t a wise choice when it comes to mixers. Sure, they’ll keep you going all night but at what cost? Studies have shown that caffeine-infused alcoholic beverages tend to mask the effects of intoxication so you don’t feel as buzzed. The end result is you drink more and become more and more intoxicated.
Alternative: Kiwi Kwencher
5. Heavy Cream
Found in White Russians and Irish Coffee, heavy cream is a juggernaut of calories and fat. One 6-ounce White Russian contains approximately 500 calories. Unless you’re the Dude, stay away from these belly-busting beverages. Instead, opt for drinks that contain coconut water. It gives you a hint of a milky taste, minus the fat found in heavy cream. It’s a great choice for those who like their libations rich.
Alternative: Leblon Coco Caipirinha
6. Tonic Water
The problem with tonic water is that it’s often confused with club soda. While many people assume they are opting for a healthier drink when they order a gin and tonic, what they’re really getting is a dose of sugar and calories that are equivalent to regular soda. One 12-ounce can of tonic water contains 32 grams of sugar. Do your waistline a favor and stick to club soda. Add a few lime wedges if you’re looking for that bitter-fresh taste.
Alternative: Gin Rickey
Devin Pratt is a U.S.–based writer and editor who has held various editorial roles at National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Men’s Fitness, FHM and Runner’s World. He’s traveled extensively, including hiking and whitewater rafting in Bosnia and Croatia. When not on assignment, he can be found exploring the great outdoors.