We’ve been put on notice about our diet, and now our drinking pleasures are assaulted. But it’s all rightfully so.

New Orleans is a tough town for healthy living. Maybe eating and drinking in a healthy fashion makes some sense in California, but as for us, well, the kale diet does not hold much attraction. Oh sure, we know what we should do, then there’s that whole other side of the coin of what we really do.

Our visitors are amazed at the amount of fat, fried food, alcohol, sauces and sugar we ingest in the regular course of any given day. We might pay the price in obesity and even shortened life span. Then again, what’s the point of living if you can’t really live.

I am not justifying our lifestyle, just noting that we know better and yet…

Since no one equates being fat with being healthy, the trend in Louisiana is not good news. We were the No. 2 state in the nation for adult obesity with almost 40 percent of the adult population considered obese. 40 percent. That’s a very high percentage on a very bad scale. No pun intended.

While we have been warned for years about fast food calories and about frozen prepared food additives, which add up to no good, we have only rarely been informed of the mixes that go into drinks. These time-savers fail, in my opinion, on two counts.

First, they are usually created using every cheap and artificial ingredient the manufacturer can obtain. All sorts of sugar and fruit substitutes are tossed into the manufacture. Using look-alike artificial ingredients is one thing, but to use the cheapest form of those additives compounds the bad choice.

Secondly, while preparation time may be of the essence, the difference between 20 seconds and three minutes is not all that grand. The result in the drink, when done right, makes a huge difference. Using real ingredients and the lingering effect on your reputation will go on long after the shorter preparation time is forgotten.

So, what are these unholy ingredients and where are they used? The cheap additives are usually in powder form, but they can be liquid or even frozen.

Their destinations include margaritas, pina coladas, mai-tai, daiquiri, white russian, mudslide, long island iced tea, and, since the holiday season is knocking at the door, eggnog. The last few drinks on the list are actually sinners against calorie levels not so much additive addicts.

The point is that distilled spirits are usually covers for lots of sugars and plenty of calories just on their own. Then when other sugars or artificial syrups are added, you have created a calorie bomb, just waiting to go off in your body.

There is really no satisfactory way to avoid calories while drinking alcohol, but you can minimize negative effects by keeping the drinks real. Never use anything that mimics a real substance. Use the real thing. This is certainly true when you make cocktails at home, but even in bars, asking a few questions and requesting real ingredients instead of mixes (do you hear this, Mr. Margarita?) can bring the caloric level back to reasonable levels.





Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com on Thursdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails every month in New Orleans Magazine.