Diet-Friendly Alcohol ChoicesChoose Wisely to Stay On Track
-- By Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer
A key to any successful lifestyle change is moderation. While you may be sticking to a healthier eating plan on most days, certain occasions call for a bit of relaxation, oftentimes in the form of an alcoholic drink. While alcohol is fat-free and low in carbs, it's important to remember that it's the calories that count when it comes to weight management. As you know, alcohol and dieting don’t mix well—your body processes alcohol first, leaving carbohydrates and fats to get stored as fat instead of getting used as fuel.
Even if you are careful about your alcohol consumption, all drinks are not created equal on the dieting scale and some choices are better than others. Here's a short guide to the calorie contents of different types of alcohol. Use it as a quick resource so you can make the best alcohol choices while sticking to your dietary goals.
Wine: The Most Diet-Friendly Choice
If you’re going to drink, wine is the most calorie-friendly selection with a typical 20 calories per ounce. Each 5-ounce glass would then be 100 calories with no cholesterol, sodium or fat. This is true for both red and white wine, from merlot to chardonnay. Sherry, a sweet, fortified wine runs a bit higher with 32 calories per ounce but it is usually served in smaller portions as an after-dinner drink.
Here is the nutritional information for some popular wines per ounce:
|Wine||Calories||Carbs||Per 5-oz Serving|
|Chardonnay||20||0.4 g||100 calories, 2 g carbs|
|Pinot Grigio||20||0.4 g||100 calories, 2 g carbs|
|Zinfandel® White Wine||20||0.4 g||100 calories, 2 g carbs|
|Cabernet Sauvignon||20||0.8 g||100 calories, 4 g carbs|
|Merlot Red Wine||20||0.8 g||100 calories, 4 g carbs|
Hard Liquor: Easy on Your Diet
Hard liquor is higher in calories per ounce than wine, and is often mixed with soda, which increases the calorie count. If you’re going to drink liquor, use calorie-free mixers like diet soda or diet tonic water. One shot glass or mixed drink will contain about 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Here is the nutritional information for some favorites, based on one ounce:
|Hard Liquor||Calories||Carbs||Per 1.5-oz Serving|
|Vermouth||32||0.2 g||64 calories, 0.4 g carbs|
|Coconut Rum||51||5.3 g||77 calories, 8 g carbs|
|Beefeater® Gin||65||0 g||98 calories, 0 g carbs|
||69||0 g||104 calories, 0 g carbs|
|Scotch Whiskey||69||0 g||104 calories, 0 g carbs|
|White Rum||69||0 g||104 calories, 0 g carbs|
|Vodka||69||0 g||104 calories, 0 g carbs|
||69||2 g||104 calories, 3 g carbs|
|Tequila||69||5.3 g||104 calories, 8 g carbs|
|Gilbey’s® Gin||79||0 g||119 calories, 0 g carbs|
Beer: Raise Your Glass with Care
Beer is the next best choice for dieters with, about 150 calories per 12-ounce serving. Choosing light beers will drop your caloric intake without sacrificing much flavor, but keep in mind that it can be hard to estimate your intake when pouring from a pitcher or into an oversized beer mug.
Here is the nutritional information for different types of beer, based on a single ounce:
|Beer||Calories||Carbs||Per 12-oz Serving|
|"Light" Beer||9||0.5 g||108 calories, 6 g carbs|
|Draft Beer||12||1.1 g||144 calories, 13.2 g carbs|
|Lager||14||1.1 g||168 calories, 13.2 g carbs|
|Ale||18||1.1 g||216 calories, 13.2 g carbs|
Liqueur: Small but Potent
Sometimes the words "cordial" and "liqueur" are used interchangeably since both drinks are flavored, very sweet and often served as (or with) dessert. Liqueurs can be served alone, over ice, with coffee, or mixed with cream or other mixers. Adding mixers will increase the calorie and fat content of your drink. Whether served alone or in a cocktail, one liqueur serving is about 1.5 ounces. While tasty, liqueurs pack the most calories per ounce, so enjoy them sparingly.
Here is the nutritional information for common liqueurs, per one-ounce serving:
|Liqueur||Calories||Carbs||Per 1.5-oz Serving|
|Chocolate Liqueur||103||11 g||155 calories, 17 g carbs|
|Mint Liqueur||103||11 g||155 calories, 17 g carbs|
|Peppermint Liqueur||103||11 g||155 calories, 17 g carbs|
|Strawberry Liqueur||103||11 g||155 calories, 17 g carbs|
If you budget your calories carefully, you can safely afford to have a drink or two on a special occasion. But beware—drinking loosens your inhibitions and may make you eat without thinking. From a health standpoint, calories aren't the only thing to consider. Practice moderation (no more than one drink daily for women and no more than two drinks daily for men) and consider other potential health benefits of different types of alcohol. Most health experts recommend the following hierarchy when choosing alcohol based on potential health benefits (such as antioxidant content): choose red wine over white wine; choose wine over beer; choose darker-colored beers over lighter-colored beers; and choose beer over liquor and liqueur.