"Don’t drink your calories" is a classic diet cliché. And unlike popular belief, it is possible to get the best of both worlds when one knows good drinks to order at a bar!
For the lowest calorie alcohol and low-calorie alcoholic drinks, look no further. Find the healthiest alcohol to drink, including healthy mixed drinks, right ahead.
Healthy Alcohol 101
When discussing diet and alcohol, it is important to understand the many different alcoholic drinks available. Knowing which drinks are best for managing weight can help an individual to make the healthiest choice for him- or herself.
An important fact to know about alcohol is that it increases calorie count without offering many nutrients. Heavy drinking is also associated with negative behaviors. Typical “hangover food” includes greasy, unhealthy, fried options that may derail health habits.
Another aspect of healthy drinking lies in alcohol habits. Experts of all professions agree that healthy alcohol choices need to be rooted in an overall healthy relationship with alcohol. Just like food, drinking behavior can be compulsive and it is important to avoid using alcohol as a reward or punishment.
Does Alcohol Contain Calories?
Alcohol is actually in its own calorie category. Carbohydrates and protein clock in at four calories per gram, while fat has nine calories per gram. But what about alcohol?
Alcohol falls in between in the nutrient distribution with seven calories per gram. Just like food, it’s important to keep alcohol as nutrient-rich as possible. In other words, while alcohols are basically the same in terms of calories per gram, it’s important to choose wisely when it comes to mixers and add-ins.
Some higher calorie ingredients and red flags when it comes to alcohol include:
• Simple syrup
• Fruit juice
• Pre-made drink mixes (i.e. margaritas)
• Maraschino cherries or other jarred fruits (usually canned in syrup)
• Seasonal/holiday drinks (i.e. eggnog)
Can One Drink Alcohol & Lose Weight?
Alcohol isn’t necessarily “bad” for weight management, but there is a reason heavy drinking is associated with the appearance of a “beer belly”. Overall, health experts encourage limiting alcohol intake to no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women per day.
Choosing lower-calorie alcohol also helps support health and weight loss. Knowing which drinks are low-calorie can help dieters make well-informed choices that best align with their goals.
How To Choose Low-Calorie Drinks
A low-calorie cocktail hour is achievable. The following tips can help keep calories low while the fun stays high!
1. Try Dry Red Wine
A drink like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah may be just what the doctor ordered. Since the 1980s, enjoying a glass of red wine with dinner has been thought of as “heart-healthy”.
While research is still accumulating to support these claims, experts agree it is one of the healthier choices on the menu for the evening.
2. Look For “Light” (Or “Lite”)
Right away, the term “light” or “lite” can alert consumers to a lower calorie option. Be sure to check the label to confirm, but often these varieties cut about 40 to 50 calories compared to their regular counterparts.
3. Sip It "Neat"
A “neat” or “dry” drink saves calories when one drinks it straight. While it may not be as fancy as a martini or Manhattan, making a choice like dry vermouth may even be beneficial according to some studies.
The risks of drinking alcohol aside, dry vermouth may contain more polyphenols (plant compounds) than white wine, which could help with metabolism, weight, and even chronic disease.
4. Order “On The Rocks”
A drink on the rocks is an alcohol beverage served straight (undiluted) with ice cubes. All hard liquor has about 100 calories per shot or a 1.5-ounce serving.
However, sipping it on the rocks helps keep the drink straight and avoids sugar-laden, high-calorie additives or mixers.
5. Other Helpful, Healthy Hacks
Keeping drinking habits low calorie is also encouraged by:
• Alternating water or seltzer with alcoholic drinks
• Adding a lime wedge to non-alcoholic drinks (i.e. seltzer or water) to make it look like alcohol
• Starting the night out with the first drink being seltzer or water
• Making weaker drinks when at a friend’s house or party (i.e using half a shot of vodka for a vodka soda, filling the rest with water or seltzer, and then using lime wedges to add flavor as desired)
• Pouring glasses half full for more control
• Going into the weekend with a boundary set ahead of time (i.e. “I’m going to have ___ amount of drinks this weekend”)
• Having a balanced meal plan in case of a hangover
• Avoiding drinking alone
• Aiming for two drinks per drinking occasion
• Developing healthy coping mechanisms for stress, loneliness, peer pressure, or depression that don’t include alcohol
• Focusing on moderation when drinking instead of obsessing, restricting, or only drinking something “healthy”
Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks
Most experts recommend choosing a preferred alcohol and steering clear of added sugars when possible. The following wine, beer, and hard liquid varieties are considered to be low-calorie alcoholic drinks.
A glass of white or red wine can be a great choice when trying to keep calories low. The following types of wine each contain 125 calories or less per five-ounce serving:
• Pinot Grigio
• Sauvignon Blanc
• Pinot Noir
• Cabernet Sauvignon
*per 4 oz alcohol, served in a flute
The following types of beer contain about 150 calories or less per 12-ounce bottle:
• Bud Light (i.e. Bud Light Lime)
• Coors Light
• Busch Light
• Yuengling Light
• Keystone Light
Hard Alcohol (Base Liquors, Hard Liquor, or Distilled Spirits)
Hard alcohol includes liquors, such as vodka, dark or white rum, tequila, rye whiskey, and much more. These liquors are used to create most cocktails. These cocktails can also be referred to as “mixed drinks”.
When choosing low calories options, the best hard alcohols can be mixed with soda water, seltzer, water, or other diet drinks. Per 1.5 oz of alcohol, these options are about 100 calories each:
• Vodka soda
• Vodka soda with lemon
• Rum and Diet Coke
• Tequila soda with lime
• Tequila with fresh lime juice
• A mojito minus the syrup
• A light bloody mary
• Diet gin and tonic
• Kombucha with vodka
• Hot toddy
• Sea breeze
• Moscow mule with diet ginger beer
Low-Calorie Alcohol: The Final Pour
Alcohol can absolutely be part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Choosing low-calorie alcohol can better overall health and benefit drinking decisions.
As always, it’s important to alternative alcohol with water or seltzer and be sure to eat well in between drinks.