Are Those Mocktails Actually Bad for Your Health?

Whether you’re celebrating Dry January or Sober October, joining the “sober curious” movement, re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol, or curbing your consumption amid the nationwide uptick in imbibing during the pandemic, you’re off the booze for now — or maybe for good. Congratulations! By now, you’ve probably gotten the memo that drinking doesn’t do your brain or body any favors, and you’re ready to explore the alcohol-free life.

But what do you reach for when you want a festive, fancy drink to celebrate or to unwind after a difficult workday? For many of us, our thoughts fly to grabbing a colorful cocktail, and with alcohol off the table, a mocktail feels like the closest replacement. But just because mocktails take liquor—the usual source of drinks’ shocking amounts of empty calories—out of the equation doesn’t mean that they, too, can’t be calorie bombs harboring a slew of unhealthy ingredients.

Just because mocktails take liquor—the usual source of drinks’ shocking amounts of empty calories—out of the equation doesn’t mean that they, too, can’t be calorie bombs harboring a slew of unhealthy ingredients. Click To Tweet

Mocktails Can Be Unhealthy, Too

In many bars and restaurants, some of the most calorific cocktails are also the most popular “virgin” drinks—think margaritas, piña coladas, and daiquiris. Unfortunately, the standard premade mixer used to create these drinks can contain high-fructose corn syrup, dozens of grams of sugar, and artificial additives like Yellow 5. (Next time you’re in the grocery store, browse mixers’ labels—you might even find that the concoction contains no actual juice at all!)

When mixing a mocktail made with regular soda, you’ll encounter similar issues. In a 12-ounce can, Coca-Cola packs 39 grams of sugar, while familiar mixers like tonic water can also feature high-fructose corn syrup and more than 30 grams of sugar. And it’s not as if diet sodas offer a better alternative.

The bottom line: Avoiding the alcohol is a great first step toward better physical wellness and brain health, but you’ll also want to evaluate what’s pouring into that glass instead. Check calories, sugar content, and the list of ingredients if you’re using anything outside of the fresh-produce category. You might be surprised at what you find on that label! When in doubt, working with unsweetened/sodium-free seltzers and fresh, whole ingredients is always a better choice.

Nonalcoholic Beverages Are Booming

Here’s the good news: As more people choose to limit their intake or eschew alcohol altogether, an increasing number of companies are cashing in on consumers’ desire for nonalcoholic alternatives. Some are introducing alcohol-free, calorie-free “spirits” to make fun, complex, party-ready drinks without the ill effects. For example, Seedlip crafts distilled nonalcoholic offerings, while Ritual Zero Proof creates authentic-tasting replicas of spirits like whiskey, gin, tequila, and rum, with minimal calories and added sugar.

Today’s premade options ain’t your mama’s mocktails, either. Some are even marketed as health-boosting, featuring ingredients like adaptogens, antioxidant-rich extracts, botanicals, nootropics, and healing herbs and spices. Many are much more calorie- and sugar-conscious than predecessors in the mocktail arena—and much healthier than the typical canned cocktail or hard seltzer.

In the same vein, nonalcoholic beer options are multiplying fast, and these can have half the calories of regular beer (again, check labels, as calorie counts can vary wildly). Major brands, including Budweiser and Guinness, have introduced 0-percent-alcohol versions of their beers, but there has also been an explosion in nonalcoholic craft beers in recent years—a movement that continues to grow rapidly.

Making Healthier Mocktails From Scratch

If you feel like playing mixologist, it’s easier than ever to create a mocktail that suits your taste at the moment—in a much healthier format. In the mood for something creamy, like a White Russian, Mudslide, or Egg Nog? Reach for a decadent chocolate smoothie or whip up a root beer float with nondairy ice cream. If you’re looking for a citrusy-sweet flavor profile (such as a margarita or mojito), mix fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice into seltzer.

Finally, to add more depth of flavor without the calorie and sugar overloads, don’t underestimate the power of add-ons. If you need a little extra sweetness, add a dash of stevia to the drink. For a fresh kick, muddle in some fresh herbs, like thyme or mint. For more depth of flavor, make your own mixers, like a “faux simple syrup” that is tea- or fruit-infused and sweetened with stevia. Then, to amp up the fun factor, try adding garnishes: fruit slices or chunks, an herb sprig, or a colorful umbrella. If you take just as much care with your mocktail as you would with a boozier choice, you won’t even miss the alcohol—and your body and brain will thank you. Cheers to that!

To whip up something creamy that also packs a protein punch, reach for OMNI Protein in Vanilla or Chocolate. Get 21% off when you use the promo code TANA21.

If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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