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Environmental Nutrition: Craft a healthier cocktail

Lori Zanteson, Environmental Nutrition on

Behind every skinny margarita, virgin mai tai, or mocktail of choice, is the desire for a healthier libation. Whether that means fewer calories, less sugar, or less or no alcohol, the demand is real and on the rise.

Low-carb beers, hard seltzers, and low- or zero-proof cocktails designed with fresh and flavorful natural ingredients are trending high. And why not, when it’s so simple and even fun to swap out boozy, syrupy, calorie-laden sips with healthier ingredients that pack just as much enjoyment in your glass.

Simple swaps

The easiest way to tone down the sugar and the calories that go along with it is to replace sugary sodas, tonic water, and simple syrups with sparkling water, 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or kombucha, a fermented tea rich in gut-friendly probiotics.

Sparkling waters come in plain as well as a wide variety of cocktail-friendly flavors, from lemon and grapefruit to ginger lime and coconut pineapple. Just be sure they’re unsweetened and flavored with natural extracts or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices.

Juice and kombucha pack a punch of flavor, so a splash should be enough to sweeten your drink and add a pop of color, while bringing a dash of vitamins and nutrients too.

 

Enhance your sip

A better-for-you cocktail doesn’t always mean taking something away. You can also boost your next pour with nutrient-rich ingredients. Whole or sliced fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, 100% juices, kombucha, and unsweetened coffee or tea all deliver a healthy nutrient dose, including fiber and health-protecting plant compounds.

Fruits, which can be fresh or frozen — frozen berries make great ice cubes — can be an edible garnish as well as flavor enhancer, especially when muddled, meaning gently bruised or smashed to release their essence.

Herbs are an excellent way to bring fresh flavors to the mix. In fact, they often define them. What would a mojito be without fresh mint? Other favorites to try include thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, and basil. Muddle them with a muddler, mortar and pestle, or a wooden spoon at the bottom of a glass or cocktail shaker, mix your cocktail, and strain out the herbs if you like.

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