Low Calorie Alcoholic Drinks – drink wisely without gaining weight

by Naomi Tupper on October 22, 2012 · 13 comments

low calorie alcoholic drinks

With the party season fast approaching, our alcohol intake can start to increase. So how can we enjoy a few drinks without piling on the pounds?

Calories in alcohol

How many calories are you drinking?

Alcohol itself is relatively high in calories with 7 calories per gram, second only to fat, which provides 9 calories of energy per gram. The other macronutrients, protein and carbohydrate both have only 4 calories per gram. So for a standard drink consisting of 10 grams of alcohol, you are consuming 70 calories from alcohol alone before considering the other sources of calories in most drinks.

Its empty calories

To make matters worse, many alcoholic drinks come with a fairly large portion of carbohydrates and in the case of cocktails, often fat as well. Added to the fact that, with the exception of a small amount of wine, alcohol provides very little nutritional value and can therefore be considered empty calories, the party season can be the undoing of even the most motivated dieters.

Promotes weight gain

In addition to the high calorie content, alcohol also wreaks havoc with our bodies’ normal processes of nutrient absorption and burning of energy. Unlike the other nutrients, protein, carbohydrate and fat, our body cannot store alcohol. Hence removing it from the body takes preference over normal functions. This can result to an interruption of the fat burning process, giving extra potential for weight gain.

With a large beer containing roughly the equivalent calories to a slice of pizza and a sweet ‘alco-pop’ type drink weighing in at around the same as 100 grams of cookies, it’s hardly surprising how quickly these calories add up and contribute to weight gain.

See also: Does alcohol cause weight gain?

Effects of alcohol on eating habits

Alcohol increases out tendency to reach for fatty, salty and generally unhealthy snack foods

We have all been out for the night only to find ourselves at two am in a greasy take-out joint waiting for a burger, serve of chips or some other fried delicacy that isn’t really dinner, not quite breakfast but a meal that the alcohol inside us has convinced us we need.

Alcohol increases out tendency to reach for fatty, salty and generally unhealthy snack foods. A department of health survey in the UK suggested that one in three people order some type of unhealthy snack food, such as chips or nuts, to accompany a drink, and a fifth stop for takeaway food on the way home after a night out.

Hangovers are also diet destroyers, when the feeling of general un-wellness and lack of energy often leads to cravings for fatty, unhealthy breakfast choices the next day. Alcohol decreases our inhibitions and also weakens our willpower and ability to make sensible, healthy eating choices along with it.

Which alcoholic drinks are high in calories?

Obviously the quantity of alcohol you drink determines the amount of calories consumed. However, going on an average size basis, here are some of the drinks with the highest calorific content.

Beer; regular beer has around 149 calories per serve.

Liqueurs; such as Drambui, Contrau and Kahlua pack a calorie punch at 188 calories, despite a small serve size.

Vermouth; sweet varieties way in at around 140 calories and dry 105 calories per serve.

Cocktails; the worst of the worst from a calorie perspective.

-Martini-140 calories per serve

-Manhattan- 164 calories per serve

-Daiquiri-122 calories per serve

-Whiskey sour- 122 calories per serve

-Margarita-280 calories per serve (large)

-Cosmopolitan; 200 calories

-Chocolate Martini; 438 calories!!!

Coolers, ready to drink ‘alco-pop’; 150calories per serve.

Low calorie alcoholic drinks

Now you know which drinks to avoid if you are watching your weight, here are some lower calories choices to help you enjoy the festive season.

  • Light beer; at 110 calories per standard drink, this is a better option than regular beer, but still has a substantial hit of energy.
  • White and red wine; 75-105 calories depending on the level of sweetness. Choose drier varieties for less calories.
  • Champagne; 84 calories
  • Spirits (80 proof); Gin, rum, vodka, whisky , tequila, brandy and cognac all come in at around 65 calories, but beware of high sugar mixers that can seriously increase this.

Other ways to drink less calories

Choose lower calorie mixers such as diet soda or tonic, light cranberry or orange juice, tea, light lemonade, lemon or lime juice.

Drink on the rocks; try infused vodkas for flavour without the calories

Dilute you drink; sparkling water or club soda can be added to spirits, or even wine to make a lower calorie spritzer.

Drink anon alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones; when you choose a low calorie soft drink, this will not only reduce your calories but help reduce the risk of a hangover the next day.

Stick to the guidelines; women should not drink more than one standard drink per day and men no more than two. Both should have at least two alcohol free days per week.

Read about the best healthy weight loss drinks

So, what you should do to minimize the calories you drink?

If you know you are going out drinking or heading to a party:

Plan ahead to minimize effects of drinking alcohol on your weight.

Choose lower calorie drink options and don’t over indulge.

Eat a healthy, filling meal before going out to reduce snacking on unhealthy foods later on and avoid drinking on an empty stomach.

References used in this article

Naomi Tupper
About the author

Naomi studied Nutrition and Dietetics and Biotechnology. She is a certified dietician with experience in Type 2 diabetes and menu planning for weight loss. Naomi is a contributor for our Diet and Nutrition sections. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucinda Ruppik March 27, 2013 at 5:21 am

I found this so easy to follow and understand as some sites leave you more baffled than before you started. For those who don’t want to give alcohol away completely, whilst trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle, your site provided me with quite a few choices that I’m happy to follow.

I got what I came for Yay! Thanks.

heath May 11, 2013 at 10:46 am

Some great tips. I never realised how calorific some drinks could be! Thanks.

Zach June 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I liked the article, and id like to emphasize that they are talking about DIET tonic water. Those tiny bottles of regular tonic look ok, but they pack a punch, over 100 calories per bottle. Any tonic, diet or otherwise, carries quite a bit of sodium though

toop June 28, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Don’t see many overweight alcoholics!! Lol

lonnie August 14, 2013 at 11:18 pm

If only you could see a pic of this fat alcoholic lol.. reason I’m here.

Carol August 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Diet drinks as mixers will increase the hangover effect and make you drunk quicker, this is due to all the extra additives in them that are not in normal soft drinks. It’s best to drink water in between alcohol if you don’t wanna get absolutely wrecked and reduce next mornings hangover.

If you don’t want to gain weight, have an absolutely perfect body and don’t want that wee tummy just don’t drink. But I like beer and rum and I’m content with being soft around the edges, I’m not overweight nor do I look fat but should I end up with a fat a*se I’ll consider cutting down.

Mena October 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

I found this site to be very helpful. Some good reminders too. I think red wine (1-2gkasses daily) is a good option as there are heslth benefits. I also like vodka and soda with a twist of lime or lemon: a low calorie and refreshing drink

Melinda H. November 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm

That’s because they prefer to drink their dinners!!!

Boopty January 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Alcoholics, no, you’re right. They would rather drink than eat. But frequent drinkers? Oh buddy, they’re almost all overweight. Ever seen a beer gut? And when I go out to bars and clubs downtown, all these young women who are obviously out drinking all weekend and eating pizza and fries all night, yeah they get a muffin top (or worse) pretty quickly. Freshman 15 quickly turns into freshman 40 if you don’t watch out. Not only is alcohol fattening, it often causes you to eat. And who’s going to get up for a morning run when they’re hungover, or commit to the college rugby team when they want to go out drinking every night? Alcohol makes you gain weight. So. much. weight.

Kacey April 30, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Cucumber vodka, water, ice, lime and lemon wedge. PERFECT drink…low calories and refreshing for spring and summer. You can add cucumber slices as well, but usually the cucumber vodka is nicely flavored…I believe that is under 100 calories a shot.

Sandy February 20, 2015 at 6:03 pm

I love a skinny Margarita!!! Tequila doesn’t raise your blood sugar and diabetics can actually drink it. Recipe is: 2 shots good tequila, juice of 1 lime, TBS of Agave Syrup mix well, pour over ice, top off with Club Soda and a lime wedge!!!

Jan March 9, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Agave syrup has been marketed as a “healthful” sweetener, but this fact has been the subject of criticism due to its very high fructose content (which is even more than high fructose corn syrup in its fructose content by weight) and its potential to lead to insulin resistance and significantly increased triglyceride levels (a risk factor for heart disease).

agave syrup + diabetes = not a pretty mixture

Deepak Kevat January 3, 2016 at 8:00 am

Helpful and practical guide that everyone can easily adopt it their lifestyle.

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