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  • Writer's pictureSara'sKitch

Can Margaritas Be Healthy?

The Best Margarita Ever
The Best Margarita Ever

First off, if you have any kind of dependency with alcohol or other substances or have been told by your doctor you should’t consume any alcohol then the answer is no, and the rest of this does not pertain to you.

If you are of legal drinking age and you imbibe in alcohol at or below the recommended amount for a healthy individual (2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women), then there’s more to my margarita story.  Read on.

Chronic stress is ruining our lives, so why are we putting more pressure on ourselves by labelling foods as “good”, “bad”, “healthy”, or “unhealthy?”  Food represents pleasure, and pleasure can be an antithesis to stress.  But, we’ve made our diets this confusing thing, with contradictory statements attached that bring more stress with them.  So, with the right mindset and a lot more intuition regarding what goes into our bodies, we can enjoy anything we want to eat or imbibe in without these polarizing good/bad labels.  We should not ignore the nutritive values that foods bring us, but we are not doing ourselves any service by making lists of foods to restrict.  ("I eat this and can't eat that…").

Modern culture has dramatically separated our minds/thoughts from our bodies, but they are one and the same.  Our mind says “I want Cheetos” (craving) and then it says, “I shouldn’t have Cheetos because they’re bad for me” (guilt).  This craving/guilt trip is just leading to stress.  What is our mind + body actually asking us for?  Probably not Cheetos. Am I actually just thirsty?  If I am truly feeling hunger, is it a salt craving?  Would almond butter on a rice cake with a dusting of Himalayan Pink Salt cure my craving?  How do I feel after having a bag of Cheetos?  How do I feel the next day? Do I even consider it? How do I feel after having a rice cake with almond butter and salt?  Am I actually just bored, procrastinating, or fulfilling a 3 p.m. daily habit?  Getting in touch with these feelings in our minds and bodies will help lead us to intuitive eating.

That said, I’m not above cravings.  Some days, I just feel like a piece of dark chocolate is calling my name.  Instead of thinking about it as “good” or “bad”, or healthy or not, I try to think about it through my 3 step food-pleasure thought process.  Before getting to that, it’s important to recognize that food stays in our system up to 48 hours after consumption, and can affect how our bodies feel even longer.  We often are so focused on what we want “right now”, that we don’t consider even the near future.  We are dependent on tomorrow for pleasure in our lives, too.  If I think about how miserable I will feel with a gut ache tomorrow afternoon because I ate a pizza this afternoon, then maybe I won’t really enjoy eating that pizza so much today.  Today’s pleasure is diminished by the thought of tomorrow’s pain.  This is not just intuitive eating, it’s logical.  Some foods are more obvious than others, but as a society, we’ve become fairly removed from how our food makes us feel.  And, we are all very different in terms of our reactions, so should pay more attention to how "I" feel, not what others tell us is "good, bad, etc". Foods can affect how tired or energetic we are, how our muscles and joints feel or recover from activity, how clear our mind is, whether we get headaches or not, how well we sleep at night and of course the gut issues that we already identify as food-induced bloating, gas, pain, constipation and diarrhea.

To get more intuitive with our eating, here’s my 3-step food-pleasure thought process for identifying healthy foods.  It’s the ones that give you pleasure during all 3 phases of consumption:

  1. Before - a pleasing food aesthetic, smell, and the anticipation of the taste.  We could do ourselves some good by spending more time in this phase, anticipating and imagining, because maybe the foresight isn’t as appealing after all.  And it’s also important to recognize that if we are constantly shoving chocolate down our throats then we are taking away the pleasure of the anticipation. The lead-up should feel good, exciting.

  2. During - enjoying the taste, smell and texture of what you’re consuming and really acknowledging it as you consume.  Slow down. Be aware of how it is making you feel as you eat it and be aware of portions and that moment you feel you’ve almost had enough.  That is the time to stop eating because for the next 20 minutes you will continue to feel more and more full, perhaps even uncomfortable.  This is referred to as “being present” while you eat. And, when we really slow down and think about and enjoy these sensations, this is food pleasure.

  3. After - recognizing how your body feels up to 48 hours after consuming it.  Do you feel satiated, energetic and physically capable of your day?  Do you feel mental clarity?  This is all pleasure related to what we have consumed.  (The opposite being feeling either hungry, deprived, or too full, feeling sluggish and tired. Having restless sleep, brain fog, gut bloating, gas, cramps, constipation, diarrhea.  Or hungover with a headache, lightheadedness or tiredness).

You thought I was talking about margaritas.  OK, here it comes.  As with a piece of chocolate, I do believe that enjoying a margarita can be a part of a healthy lifestyle!  After a long week, or even a long few days, when the weather is hot, you might want to relax in the evening as the temperatures begin to cool off, talk to friends, snack on chips and guac, listen to music that relaxes and makes you happy.  If this is something that makes you feel pleasure and joy, then don’t deny yourself by thinking you “need to be good” and resist a marg.  As we just discussed, feeling pleasure and joy is healthy.  But, remember that health as it relates to food and drink extends 48 hours after your consumption, so keeping in mind how you will feel the next day as you decide how large you want that margarita to be.

I bet you thought I was going to dissect the ingredients in margaritas when discussing whether or not they are healthy.  Well, nutritional value is part of it, too.  When I consider how I will feel the next day, I am usually best off when I make my own margaritas and can control all the ingredients.  Here is my rundown on typical margaritas versus my recipe:

1. Tequila: There are no practical health benefits or significant nutrition to gain from tequila.  That said, use a tequila that is made from 100% blue agave plant with no additives.  I use tequila blanco (as opposed to reposado or anejo) as it has less calories than the others and just has a cleaner taste.

2.  Orange liqueur:  I’m partial to Cointreau since I think it’s smoother, and less syrup-y sweet than Triple Sec.

3.  Lime juice: I squeeze my limes on the day of making margaritas.  Fresh lime juice is full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and can support heart health.  Fresh lime juice begins to lose its flavor and some of its nutritional benefits begin to deteriorate 2-3 days after squeezing.  Bars often purchase bottles of lime juice which may have been squeezed a week or more prior. (Cheaper bars are probably using margarita mixes, which...don't even go there).

4.  Sweetener: Actually, a classic margarita has no sweetener in it, but often bar margaritas add simple syrup or worse, agave nectar.  Simple syrup is usually refined sugar and water.  But sometimes, it is high fructose corn syrup and water.  Agave nectar is no better, even though they like to fool you by claiming low GI numbers as a health benefit.  Once the agave plant is processed for its sweetness, its fructose content is above 50%, making it “high fructose” too.  We know this to contribute to some chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and others.  It is not the “corn” part of high fructose corn syrup that does this.  It’s the “high fructose” part.  So, avoid agave nectar, too.

I use maple syrup.  Weird, right?  Actually, I use just a touch and it tastes so good!  Maple syrup is a natural sweetener, straight from maple trees, and its golden brown color comes from all the natural minerals in it.  These have an actual health benefit, so I opt for real maple whenever I can.  And, just for the fact that I’m FODMAP-wary, agave syrup is high FODMAP, and maple syrup is not.

There you have it!  Margaritas can be healthy, and my homemade ones are going to satisfy the 3-step food-pleasure thought process more-so than the local bar by utilizing thoughtful ingredients without fillers, extra processing or degradation over time.

Best Margaria Ever
Best Margarita Ever

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