April 14, 2024

15 Lowest-Calorie Alcohol Drinks For Weight Loss, Per Dietitians

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re likely paying attention to the calorie content of foods and drinks more than ever before—including your alcohol intake. And if you enjoy a cocktail every now and then, you’re probably curious about the lowest calorie alcohol options out there.

“Alcohol is both a toxin and inflammatory substance for our bodies, and our body does not have the ability to store alcohol,” says Miami-based dietitian Kimberly Gomer, RDN. When you drink, your body burns alcohol first as a fuel source, a process that can contribute to weight gain later on, she says. Regularly consuming alcoholic drinks that are sugary and/or high-calorie can also slow down your weight loss progress.

With that in mind, it begs the question: Can you still drink alcohol and lose weight? The answer is yes—if you prioritize the lowest-calorie alcohol options (and practice other healthy habits). Just be aware of the quantity and know that there are certain types of alcohol that are better for weight loss than others.

Here are the best low calorie alcohol drinks to sip at home or order at a bar, according to dietitians.

Meet the experts: Kimberly Gomer, RDN, is a Miami-based dietitian who specializes in weight loss, diabetes, cholesterol, and polycystic ovary syndrome.Marissa Meshulam, RDN, is a New York City-based dietitian. Tanya Mezher, RDN, is a nutritionist and the lead functional practitioner at Malla. Keri Gans, RD, is the author of The Small Change Diet. Amy Gorin, RDN, is a nutritionist and the owner of Plant Based With Amy.

Best Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks For Weight Loss

1. Vodka Soda 2.0

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    A zero-calorie seltzer can keep you on track since it has no carbs, and vodka typically contains about 97 calories per 1.5-ounce shot, says Mezher. “For those losing weight and eating a higher carbohydrate plan, a squeeze or slice of fresh fruit is perfectly fine,” says Gomer. But if you’re going low-carb, a squeeze of lemon or lime is a better option, she adds.

    At home, you can also play around with different teas (hello, matcha!) and sparkling water to up the flavor profile but avoid added calories, adds Mezher. For example, try mixing matcha, lime seltzer, and vodka in your shaker and pouring over ice.

    2. Rum And Diet Cola

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    Rather than your go-to rum and regular cola, opt for diet soda instead to easily reduce calories and sugar. “This is another good choice if you can limit the number of drinks,” says Gomer. Rum (1.5 fluid ounces) contains no carbs, no fat, and about 97 calories, making it a solid option for folks on a weight loss journey.

    3. Rum And Unsweetened Black Tea

    iced tea with lemon

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    Here’s an alternative for people who don’t want to drink any kind of cola—make it a rum and unsweetened black tea, Gorin recommends. One cup of unsweetened black tea will only add about two calories to your bev which otherwise has about 97 calories per 1.5-ounce shot, says Mezher.

    “This may be hard to get at a restaurant or bar, but it’s a good option to make at home,” says Gomer. “Just know that the black tea has caffeine, which adds to the dehydrating effect—so if drinking more than one, hydration is key.”

    4. Manhattan

    two glasses of cocktail

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    If you don’t want to drink your whiskey straight, order a classic Manhattan (whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters), which keeps calories, carbs, and sugars low. The standard recipe includes two ounces of whiskey (about 105 calories) and one ounce of sweet vermouth (about 64 calories) for a total of around 169 calories. “A Manhattan is not too bad if you can keep it to ideally one or two drinks,” adds Gomer.

    5. Gin Martini

    martini with olive

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    Channeling your inner Bond may serve you well if you’re looking to lose weight, since a gin martini with two olives and brine contains about 200 calories with virtually no sugar or carbs, says Mezher.

    If you’re craving a little more flavor, try experimenting with ingredients like chopped ginger or muddled mint or sage leaves, which are not only low in calories but also nutritious, says Mezher. Add them to a cocktail shaker with ice and gin, shake well, pour over ice, and top with a cucumber slice.

    6. Paloma

    paloma cocktail with grapefruit and tequila

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    The tangy pink drink, made with grapefruit and lime juice, is like a margarita without as many calories. However: “This drink has 158 calories and six grams of carbs, so it can add up fast if you have more than one,” says Gomer. Keep in mind that most palomas are typically made with grapefruit soda, so opt for a squeeze of fresh grapefruit or grapefruit seltzer instead if you can, to avoid additional calories and carbs, adds Mezher.

    7. Champagne, Seltzer, And Fruit

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    A five-ounce glass of bubbly isn’t much—but you can fill up the rest of your flute with seltzer and fresh fruit or mint leaves for a drink that’s yummy and only 90 calories, says Mezher. Another pro tip? Fruit and herbs can add true natural flavor without refined sugar, Mezher says.

    8. Light Beer

    beer and bbq chicken

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    Opt for a light beer instead of the regular thing since a 12-ounce pour only has about 90 to 100 calories, depending on the brand, says Mezher. It’s a good way to still enjoy beer without the same density as the usual bev, Gorin says.

    Need a specific rec? The Budweiser Select 55 has the lowest calorie and carb count, according to Gomer. “It’s also a larger portion compared to other drinks, so nursing two all night is a great strategy,” she says.

    9. Dry Red Wine

    red wine poured from bottle into wineglass

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    Red wine typically contains 120 to 130 calories per five-ounce pour, according to Mezher. Opt for a dry pour over a sweeter option like moscato, sherry, riesling, or dessert wines whenever possible since they contain less sugar, says Mezher. “Try diluting [your wine] with seltzer or ice so you can drink less,” Gomer adds.

    10. Baileys And Coffee

    close up of an irish coffee on a wooden table

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    Add a 1.5-ounce shot of Baileys to your cup of coffee for a tasty and almost a no-cal bev, Gorin says. But keep it to one drink since each shot contains over 100 calories, per Mezher, along with the added dehydration from the caffeine, says Gomer. (You can also opt for decaf coffee.) It’s best to nix added sweeteners or creamers—or opt for a light option, like keto-friendly or non-dairy creamers—to reduce the cals per drink, adds Mezher.

    11. Tequila And Lime Splash

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    A 1.5-ounce shot of tequila with a splash of lime and soda provides a little bit of kick and juice taste with only about 100 calories. If you’re looking for a little sweetness, try using seasonal ingredients like muddled mint and basil or freshly chopped berries, which score high in flavor and low in calories, says Mezher. Toss all your ingredients in an ice cold shaker, mix well, and serve in a chilled glass. For an extra tangy punch, rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass.

      12. Vodka And Mint, Cucumber, And A Lime Wedge

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      Mix muddled mint and cucumber with fresh lime juice and vodka for a refreshing order without the refined sugar, says Mezher. “This is a fantastic choice since it’s low in calories and carbs, and the extra mint, cucumber, and lime give it a bold taste,” says Gomer. The vodka has about 97 calories per shot, but the mint and cucumber are basically calorie-free, adds Mezher.

      13. Margarita On The Rocks

      margaritas

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      “Take a pass on fancy frozen drinks like daiquiris and order your margarita on the rocks,” says Keri Gans, RD, the author of The Small Change Diet. Go one step further and order a reduced-sugar margarita by asking for no agave.

      Just note that a margarita on the rocks packs about 200 calories per drink (mainly from the tequila and orange liqueur), per Mezher, and a good amount of carbs, so stick to one.

      14. Seasonal Cocktail

      front view of margarita cocktail

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      A lot of bars and restaurants are getting creative with their curated cocktail menus, utilizing seasonal ingredients (think: sage spritzers or ginger margaritas), so look out for combinations of botanicals, teas, and herbs, says Mezher. (Before you order, ask what other ingredients are included so you can avoid added sugars.)

      15. Liquor With A Wedge

      glass of gin and tonic with ice and lime

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      “Take tequila, vodka, or gin with club soda or seltzer,” says Gans. The liquor has about 96 to 105 calories per shot, but Gomer suggests adding a single fruit wedge like grapefruit, lemon, or lime on the side, which makes it refreshing and delicious with a small amount of additional calories or carbs. You can also muddle fruits and herbs to add natural flavors without the extra calories and carbs typically found in pre-made mixers, adds Mezher.

      Which alcohol is lowest in calories?

      Different types of alcohol have about the same number of calories, and a 100-calorie drink on its own isn’t going to sabotage your weight loss goals, says Amy Gorin, RDN, the owner of Plant Based With Amy. What makes a drink super filling isn’t the alcohol itself, but rather what that bartender is adding to your drink, like sugary mixes and simple syrups.

      Types Of Alcohol With Least Calories:

      • Vodka: One shot contains 97 calories (0 gram carbs, 0 gram sugar)
      • Rum: One shot contains 97 calories (0 gram carbs, 0 gram sugar)
      • Whiskey, bourbon, and scotch: One shot contains 105 calories (0.03 grams of carbs per ounce, 0.03 grams of sugar per ounce)
      • Gin: One shot contains 110 calories (0 gram carbs, 0 gram sugar)
      • Tequila: One shot contains 105 calories (0 gram carbs, 0 gram sugar)
      • Champagne: One 4-ounce glass contains 90 calories (3 grams carbs, 1 gram sugar)
      • Beer: One 12-ounce bottle contains 153 calories (13 grams carbs, 0 gram sugar)
      • Wine: One 5-ounce glass of wine contains 123 calories (4 grams carbs, 1 gram sugar)
      • Baileys: One shot contains 147 calories (11 grams carbs, 9 grams sugar)

      How To Make Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks

      Here’s how to keep your drink recipes light and low-cal, according to Gomer:

      • Add seltzer to your cocktail (think: wine spritzer). This provides some extra fizz and volume with zero calories and no carbs.
      • Load up on ice to stretch your drink and add volume without the extra calories.
      • Have a glass of water or seltzer before *and* after drinking. This will help mitigate the dehydrating effects of alcohol and slow down consumption.
      • If you’re looking for a mixer, opt for a diet tonic, diet soda, or sugar-free mixer like Sparkling Ice, which packs only five calories per bottle and no sugar.
      • Avoid adding sugary fruit juices, puree, or syrups to cut down calories and carbs.

      Tips For Low-Calorie Alcohol And Weight Loss

      • Keep your drinks simple. “Once you start using more than one type of booze, your calories really start to get up there,” says Gans. For example, if you can take your gin neat with a squeeze of fresh lime, your weight loss goals will be better off than if you went for the standard, sugar-loaded gin and tonic.
      • Try whiskey. Your best bet for ordering the lowest-calorie alcohol is starting with whiskey or scotch and adding water to help open up the vivid flavors, or a no-calorie mixer like club soda, says Gorin.
      • Swap your ingredients. You can always make a few simple swaps to help lower the number of calories in your original drink of choice. For instance, “ask for a margarita with less agave, [or] a mojito with less sugar,” says Gorin. Or ask if the bar is serving 100 percent juice or a juice cocktail, the latter of which is a keyword for added sugar and calories. Easy.
      • Add fruits for flavor. If you want to give your alcohol an oomph, try adding fruits to your bevs, says Meshulam. “Get flavor from muddled fruit and herbs instead of juices, soda, or sugar,” says Meshulam, noting that adding splashes of lemon, lime, and soda water can elevate your fruit-filled drink.

      How does alcohol affect weight loss?

      Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes it harder to focus during meals, which can lead to overeating or choosing foods you otherwise wouldn’t, says Marissa Meshulam, RDN, the owner of MPM Nutrition. Plus, alcohol causes your blood sugar to drop which can result in increased hunger and snacking, adds Tanya Mezher, RDN, a lead functional practitioner at Malla.

      Even hangovers can impede on healthy eating and exercise. “If we wake up hungover, we are more likely to skip our normal workout class or grocery shopping and, instead, order [takeout] and not move,” adds Meshulam.

      If you decide you still want to drink, keep your beverages light, low-sugar, and low-calorie for optimal results.

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      Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania.