What’s the “healthiest” drink at the bar? Your 4 best bets

Happy hour is one of my favorite pastimes, and our blender at home gets a lot of use. (Margaritas.) But I’m always wary of drinking too much because a) sloppy drunk looks good on no one; b) hangovers make me want to die; and c) THERE’S A LOT OF SUGAR IN ALCOHOL. Luckily, Claire of Eat Well. Party Hard. is here with a few suggestions on the best drinks to order at the bar when you want to treat your body right (while still having fun).

healthy drinks at the bar

To get straight to the point, I like to drink.

Drinking is fun, whiskey tastes great and, in the right context, alcohol catalyzes the kind of crazy adventures* that spark new friendships and solidify old ones.

However, it’s common knowledge that from a physical standpoint, drinking night after night is extremely taxing—on your waistline, your digestive system and your ability to wake up without a painful, productivity-killing headache the next morning.

This isn’t great news if your career and/or social pursuits place you in bars several nights a week.

That used to be my life.

Those of us who spend a significant amount of time in alcohol-heavy environments have to get crafty when it comes to juggling the social situation and our health. So to avoid unknowingly consuming buckets of creepy chemicals, artificial ingredients or a few hundred (sometimes thousand) extra calories, here are your four best boozing bets for a fun, relatively healthy night.

1. Craft or locally brewed beer—but only if you’re having one or two.

Beer—especially beer with real flavor to it—is high in empty calories and carbs. Several “light” options are typically available (your Bud Lights, Miller Lites, Michelob Ultras, etc.) for between 90-100 calories per 12-oz serving, but virtually all commercially brewed beers are laden with sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or dextrose, additives like caramel coloring and a huge array of other chemicals. Food Babe actually asked spoke one-on-one with several mainstream breweries about what their beers contain, and her findings are pretty depressing. Sierra Nevada, Heineken and Amstel Light appear to be the only major companies who don’t use artificial ingredients, stabilizers or preservatives in their brews.

To avoid the chemical trap of commercial beers, it’s best to stick with craft beers and microbrews, or to opt for a German beer if available (the Reinheitsgebot purity law in Germany requires all beers to be produced with only a core ingredient list of water, hops, yeast, malted barley or wheat). However, with the knowledge that these choices are significantly higher in calories than the cheap-o “Lite” stuff, be mindful of how many calories are in that mug o’ tastiness.

2. Wine

Wine is lower in calories and carbs than beer, though like beer—or any other mass-produced food or drink—commercial wines are made to a specific taste; this ensures that the second bottle of Yellowtail pinot grigio you open will taste just like first. This uniformity is achieved, of course, by heavy processing, chemical manipulation and the use of various additives. So be aware that at the bar, your glass of wine won’t likely be as pure as those that come from small-scale vineyards, but at least the carb count is lower than the Bud Light your friend ordered.

3. Your favorite liquor + club soda + lime

Calorically speaking, liquor is the best bang for your buck at around 100ish calories per 1.5-oz serving—the mixers that go with them, though, get real dangerous real fast.

Though old-school versions of most drinks are relatively harmless, bars more often than not are stocked with pre-mixed versions of the classics—and once again, commercially packaged = tons of sugar, coloring and chemicals. According to WebMD, a 6-ounce piña colada packs on about 380 calories, and an 8-ounce mojito is 214 calories.

Rather than pulling out a calculator at the bar, order your preferred liquor with club soda/seltzer (not tonic water, which is super high in sugar) and a splash of lime—the fizz and citrus will keep it interesting.

4. Your favorite liquor, straight

If you dig the taste of your chosen liquor on its own, try ordering it on the rocks or neat. Too strong? Dilute it with some water as you acquire the taste.

What’s your favorite healthy(ish) drink?

*Said adventures are too numerous to list fully, but do include many nights running around New York ’til sunrise, snagging a cop’s hat and posing for photos on said cop’s motorcycle (with said cop present) and skinny dipping at Coney Island, among others.

 

Claire SullentropeMake sure you check out Claire’s blog, Eat Well. Party Hard. for more kickass posts like this one. (Seriously. She’s one of my favorites.) You can also follow here on Twitter and Instagram.

Must Reads: For anyone who learned about love the hard way

Uses for Boys

I’ve always loved YA fiction. It is smart, it is complex, and it is heartbreaking. Uses for Boys is all three.

This page-turner took me less than two days to read, and in that time, I found myself hoping the protagonist, Anna, wouldn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. But like a real human being, she does. With no father to speak of and a once-loving mom who now makes herself scarce, Anna is forced to navigate much of her childhood and teen years on her own. She seeks comfort in all the wrong places, mistaking sex for love and being punished for it as a result. Uses for Boys is a raw and real book that deals with abandonment and abuse, and it highlights the story of the kind of person society tends to shame by victim-blaming.

I did a Q&A with author Erica Lorraine Scheidt about some of the most important themes and moments from the book.

And her responses were so thoughtful that I’m really excited to share them with you now. Check out our Q&A below.

Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys author Erica Lorraine Scheidt (Photo by Marnie Webb)

WTH: Anna’s a tragic character who can’t seem to help but make the same mistakes over and over. Why was her story so important for you to tell?

ELS: I was writing into the question of how we make our way in the world. I started thinking about a teenage girl for whom sex was a salve to loneliness. And I was curious—why is it so easy for a girl to get sexual attention, but so difficult to get other kinds of attention? I thought, and I still think, that Anna’s story is important, because we are all lonely, we all have to learn how to be in the world. Anna just had to learn out loud, with little support or direction.

Some of the sex scenes are pretty detailed for a YA novel. How did you tread the line between being realistic and not romanticizing it too much?

I started out interested in what it meant that Anna learned about sex in the moment, from her partners, and not from frank, respectful conversations with caring adults. I was specifically interested in all the mistakes she made—and even when intimacy was surprising or tender or fun for Anna, it never occurred to me that it was romanticized. I think because because her experiences were also awkward or hurtful or confusing at times.

I did know, even when writing the earliest drafts, that the book was more explicit than many YA novels. But I feel strongly that we have to have safe ways to talk about sex and sexual situations—and fiction is one of those safe ways. We need to have more than fade to black and everything works out—because how do young men and women learn to navigate consent and pleasure without having some models for what works and what doesn’t work?

One thing I found interesting and refreshing about your book is how it depicts the abortion. While it is a fragile and challenging situation, the abortion is not nearly as dramatic or traumatic as it’s so often made out to be. It was a big moment in Anna’s life, but it wasn’t a defining moment. Did you take this approach on purpose, and if so, why?

I saw the abortion as one of the few times in Anna’s young life that adults were looking out for her physical and emotional wellbeing. And I loved the idea that Anna noticed these strong, caring women in the clinic and wondered what they had, why they were different than the other women in her life. I worked in an abortion clinic when I was 18, and I was so impressed by the women who worked there—kind, strong, generous, knowledgable women who were committed to serving others. It made a profound impression on me.

Anna’s mom’s absence throughout the book is such a presence, ironically. The whole time I was reading, I wanted to know how she justified spending so much time away from her daughter. What don’t readers know about her that you do?

I’m fascinated by villains. And the idea that the villain of your story can always justify his or her actions. Anna’s mom thought she was providing for her daughter by seeking financial security. I also suspect that Anna’s mom didn’t know how to make a different kind of home for Anna. I have a lot of hope for Anna, but I also have hope that her mom will change and grow.

Your website says you’re working on a new novel. Is there anything you can share about that?

Yes, only to say that it’s been difficult. And I won’t know until it’s finished, but the project seems to be taking a new turn and I’m very excited about it.

 

Thanks to Erica for sharing her thoughts and insight. Pick up a copy of Uses for Boys here or at your local bookstore. Follow Erica Lorraine Scheidt on Twitter here.

Get cultured: resources for staying savvy

stay up-to-date

These days, news doesn’t travel a mile a minute—it travels thousands of miles per second. Pretty tough to keep up with.

And while anybody who reads this blog is likely a smart, thoughtful and inquisitive person (ahem) who knows they should be staying up-to-date with what’s going on the world, I’m guessing there are a few of you who aren’t as in touch as you’d like to be. Hey, we aren’t all born news junkies.

And I’ll be perfectly honest—neither was I until I got into journalism school. I read a lot, but I was more interested in magazine journalism than hard news. So when I realized I needed to be making more of an effort to read the news, I wanted to find publications that broke it down in easy-to-understand chunks. The last thing anyone who’s trying to educate themselves wants is to feel like an idiot.

So here’s a list of 7 apps and websites that make the news easy & fun to digest:

theSkimm – A daily newsletter that sums up today’s most important news in the simplest of terms with a side of sass. If you’re intimidated or overwhelmed by world news, this is a great place to start, because you’ll get all the important updates with the basic background you’ll need on a story and you’ll actually enjoy reading it.

Circa News app (iOS/Android) – Short, to-the-point articles that read well on your phone. Beautifully designed and easy to navigate. The most unique feature in this free app is the ability to follow stories you want to keep up with. Tap the follow icon while you’re reading, and you’ll get push notifications for any future updates, which is great for developing stories.

Vox.com – This brand-spanking-new website is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Vox aims to make all those news stories you know you should be reading (but aren’t) more palatable. It uses what are called card stacks, which you can scroll through like a slideshow, to give you the background information you need. Important terms are also highlighted and clickable to launch the card stacks. Just see for yourself—it’s fun to explore.

PolicyMic – You’ve probably noticed I link to this one a lot in my Interweb Finds posts and on Twitter. That’s because it has become one of my top go-to sites not just for news, but for commentary as well. It’s also written by millennials for millennials—a perspective I can of course relate to. Some of the headlines remind me a bit too much of Upworthy’s hyperbolic headlines, but overall, I think it’s a great resource.

Yahoo News Digest app (iOS) – This is another brand-new app that collects the best news from around the web and delivers it to you twice daily. The articles are suited for small-screen reading and break up the text with pull-quotes, tweets, images and more. You’re also rewarded for reading through each of the stories with a little animation and a fun fact.

Pulse News app (iOS/Android) – This LinkedIn app lets you customize and personalize your feed by selecting from popular LinkedIn influencers like Mashable and National Geographic. It’s also a social news app you can use to comment on and share articles. Great app to try out if your LinkedIn profile is collecting cobwebs.

Daily Beast Cheat Sheet – The Daily Beast is a great news resource for lengthier news reading, but the Cheat Sheet is exactly what it sounds like—a guide to the day’s most important stories, stripped to the bare essentials. It features 10 news stories in the morning and 10 more at night. You can sign up for the Cheat Sheet news blast to be delivered to your inbox twice a day five days a week.

There are so many great resources out there—this is just a handful of them. Which sites and apps do you read to get your news?

Mixing punk rock with grace

Against Me! @ Dour 2012
Last summer, I read this fascinating Rolling Stone article about a long-time male punk singer who had what’s called gender dysphoria—something which people who are born as one gender but identity with another suffer from. This week, I happened across the news from NPR that a comeback for the singer was in progress:

“The bracingly political Florida punk band Against Me! has been a going concern since 1997, but Transgender Dysphoria Blues can’t help but feel like a debut: It’s the group’s first album since singer Tom Gabel [now Laura Jane Grace] came out as a woman.”

Before this week, I’d never even heard an Against Me! song. But now, I consider myself a huge fan and supporter of Laura and her transition into the next stage of life. You can add her to my girl crush list. Why? Because it no doubt took an insane amount of courage on her part to become who she was meant to be. She didn’t give a shit about what other people thought of her. (Except for her wife and young daughter, who have supported her transition with love.)

And that, I think, is so very punk.

Though I know next to nothing about the genre of punk itself, I found myself hooked from the start of the title track of Against Me!’s newest album. As NPR notes, Laura “still barks her lyrics with fiercely assertive intelligence” with the same voice she had when she was still Tom. (She told Rolling Stone, “I like my singing voice.”) The new album takes the subject of Laura’s transition head-on, which I think will—and should—earn her a lot of respect.

It can be so damn hard to feel comfortable in your own skin—and I can imagine it’s even harder when there are so many critical eyes on you. Which is why I think it’s important to applaud those who take their happiness and future into their own hands and deal with the inevitable challenges of doing so as bravely as Laura has.

It’s fitting that Laura chose “Grace” as her new last name. She seems to have handled this major life change with exactly that.

Taking art to heart: words of wisdom from a rock goddess

Patti Smith

via NPR.org

A few months ago, John and I went to see Patti Smith perform live downtown. I was a new fan having just read her National Book Award winning memoir Just Kids, and John, though not incredibly familiar with her music, was curious about my new girl crush. That night, we both left the venue energized, inspired, and starstruck. That Patti Smith? She is a badass, and one hell of a performer. And if you’ve read her book, you undoubtedly know she is full of wisdom.

So when I saw this video the other day of even more inspiring words from Patti, I took them to heart:

Patti Smith: Advice to the young from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

A writer or any artist can’t expect to be embraced by the people… you just keep doing your work because you have to, because it’s your calling. But it’s beautiful to be embraced… Some people have said to me, well, don’t you think that kind of success spoils one as an artist… and I say, you know, fuck you! One does their work for the people, and the more people you can touch, the more wonderful it is. You don’t do your work and say, “I want only the cool people to read it.’

And you know? That was really refreshing to hear.

Of course I’m writing primarily for myself—that’s numero uno. Of course not everyone will like it—that’s a given. Of course most people will never even read it. Is this reason enough to quit writing and feign passion for investment banking? Hell fucking no. (No offense to all you investment bankers out there, but I just shivered, and it wasn’t the good kind.)

In fact, rather than serving as cause to give up and wimper in the corner, being a relative unknown is just the opposite: I am liberated by the fact that anyone and no one at all could be reading my work at any given moment. This, for me, is the ultimate freedom.

As a blogger…

I can write a post to make you laugh.

I can write a post to make you cry.

I can write a post that attempts and fails to do either of these things.

I can write a post to make you think. (I can also write a post to make you think, WTF?)

I can write in a boat or with a goat, and the world, overall, would not notice, nor give many shits one way or the other.

But it’s worth it to know that even the tiniest fraction of a percent of the world’s population does. And because writing nothing serves no purpose for personal growth—mine or anyone else’s—I will continue to write. Never in an attempt to alienate anyone. Never in an attempt to please everyone. (Certainly not just the cool people.) If anything, I’ll be writing just to please Patti Smith, who understands that even if the majority of the world is never savvy to your creation, it’s worth every ounce of sweat and worry if it comes from a place of sincerity and touches even just one person. If you’re consistent, persistent, passionate, and genuine, chances are you’ll reach way more than just one person. Which, when you think about it, is incredible.