Low-calorie alcoholic drinks that aren't full of sugar are hard to find. Especially when we're calorie counting, but anyone looking to drop those final stubborn pounds may have a few options to consider. From vodka to gluten-free alcohol, there are ways to keep your calorie intake in check while you enjoy your social evening.
We all know that drinking alcohol may affect our waistlines1, but that does not mean you have to practice abstinence. You can still stick to a diet as long as you’re savvy with your calorie intake. For example, did you know that a glass of Prosecco has actually fewer calories than a white wine?
On average, one serving of alcohol contains 100-150 calories, so even a moderate amount of 3 drinks a day can easily add up to 400 calories. Mixed drinks that add juice, tonic, or syrups will further drive up calories, increasing the risk of weight gain over time2.
As a matter of fact, because of the way it’s processed by your body, too much alcohol may actually slow down your weight loss and undermine your health gains if you are on a diet3,4. More importantly, it can impede weight loss by stimulating appetite and increasing food intake5,6.
However, if you can drink alcohol in moderation, it might not be a major issue as long as it’s low in carbs. Low-carb alcohol options include wine, champagne and pure spirits like whiskey and vodka. High-carb drinks? Beer and sugary cocktails.
Below you will find a few drinks we reach for during a night out. Try one of our favorites next time you’re celebrating.
Our preferred low-calorie vodka soda drink only has 65 calories. You can mix it with some ingredients and turn it into a “Skinny Bitch” - this sparkling drink with vodka, soda, lime, and ice tastes way better than it might sound. This drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
We like red wine because it has a slightly higher vitamin and mineral content than white wine. Choose a dry wine for lower sugar content. One glass, regardless of whether it’s white or red, has around 120 calories and about 2grams of carbs.
Nothing says celebration like a glass of bubbly. Although Champagne can be very expensive, other kinds of sparkling wines like Prosecco come in a variety of prices and can be enjoyed as an aperitif, with your food or as a stand-alone drink. A glass of champagne typically has about 90 calories and about 2 grams of net carbs.
Even though whiskey is made from various forms of grains, it’s zero carb and gluten-free. It comes in many different classes and types. Too much ice can kill the flavor, but serving it with a little dash of water can actually enhance the flavor. One drink contains 0 grams of carbs and about 70 calories.
If you are looking for a low-calorie cocktail drink, we recommend Mojito. The classic mojito—a mixture of lime juice, sugar, mint leaves, rum, and soda—will run you over 200 calories. Rum is already a little more calorie-heavy than other liquors, so we suggest making your mojito “healthier” by asking your server for a less sugary version. That can make your drink stay under 150 calories.
AVOID SUGARY ALCOHOLIC DRINKS
Sugar and alcohol both have a lot in common. They both cause dehydration7 and they are both processed through the liver. These commonalities mean that, when combined, sugary, alcoholic drinks produce a much more severe hangover than alcohol alone.
Daiquiris, sweet martinis, and Mai Tai’s all contain sugar and alcohol. You may want to skip the Margarita as well: the sugar content of a frozen margarita is very high at about 160 grams.
So, it’s important to keep in mind that sugary drinks cause you to absorb alcohol faster and feel its effects sooner, hence increasing not only your calorie intake but your blood alcohol level and dehydration.
BEER NOT A GOOD CHOICE FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Most beer is a no-go when you’re eating low carb. Its hops and fermented grains are like drinking liquid bread — and the big beer bellies can produce proof-positives that it contributes to abdominal obesity8.
However, carb counts can vary depending on the brand of beer, and there are a few lower-carb options.
GLUTEN-FREE ALCOHOL AND SAKE
While only certain beers are gluten-free, all wine is gluten-free. Wine is made from grapes, which are very definitely free from gluten. That's another, plus when choosing between wine and beer.
Another type of wine — “rice wine” or Sake — is also gluten-free, but isn't actually wine at all. It's a closer cousin to beer because it is created by converting starch to sugar and fermenting it into alcohol. Some Sake’s are drier (fewer calories), and some are sweeter.
If you are on a diet and have to choose between beer and sake, choose the latter. If we were to compare the sugar levels of 180ml (1 glass) of sake against 350ml (one mug) of beer, sake measures 6.5g, whereas beer measures 11g.
Diets of drinkers on drinking and nondrinking days: NHANES 2003–2008
Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance
De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption
Effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Moderate alcohol consumption stimulates food intake and food reward of savoury foods
The effects of dehydration, moderate alcohol consumption, and rehydration on cognitive functions
The effect of different alcoholic beverages on blood alcohol levels, plasma insulin and plasma glucose in humans