The 10 Lowest Calorie Alcoholic Drinks, According to Nutritionists
Whether you love wine, beer, or fancy mixed drinks, here's a quick guide to the healthiest options you can order (or make at home).
What's the lowest calorie alcohol?
It's more than understandable to want to kick back with a drink at the end of a long day, especially after you have one of those days. But, while there's no shame in that game, it's easy to forget about those liquid calories you're sipping.
Unfortunately, they can add up fast—especially if you're drinking on the regular. And, before you know it, you've sabotaged the healthy eating plan you've laid out for yourself.
"Calories from alcohol can add up fast," Christy Brissette, MS, RD, owner of 80 Twenty Nutrition, tells Health. "And, because alcohol doesn't provide nutrients or fill you up, these calories are usually in addition to what you're already eating and drinking." Drinking also can make you feel less inhibited, so you're more likely to overeat, she says.
While some forms of alcohol contain a fair number of calories on their own (looking at you, triple sec), a big issue in all of this is mixers, Keri Gans, MS, RD, author of The Small Change Diet, tells Health. "Many of the mixers we add to alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and provide no nutritional benefit," she says.
The good news is that you don't need to swap your chardonnay for seltzer every time you want to celebrate. Just make wiser decisions when it comes to choosing what to drink.
"To cut calories in most drinks, you can play with the ratios of ingredients," Beth Warren, MS, RD, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl, tells Health. She recommends trying tricks like adding more ice or sparkling water, which have no calories, topping your drink off with a fresh fruit juice with no added sugars vs. doing a heavy pour, and trying a natural sweetener like stevia instead of regular sugar or syrup.
With that in mind, these are the lowest calorie alcoholic drinks you can serve up, including easy tweaks to some popular favorites.
Margaritas can be calorie bombs thanks to the use of lots of sugar and triple sec. Pre-made mixers can also be an issue due to high sugar content, Brissette says. To get around that, she recommends using fresh lime juice, tequila, and a dash of agave syrup on the rocks. "You'll keep the sugar and calories down," she says.
Want to add some nutrients to the mix? Health's contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, RD recommends using avocado, mango and orange juice for a big dose of essential vitamins and minerals that help fight wrinkles and cancer. Watch the video to see a demonstration.
Calorie count: 95 cals
Gin and tonic
A gin and tonic is a classic combination, but it can pack up to 142 calories per serving. Why? Tonic water is generally made with high-fructose corn syrup, the same sweetener that's found in cola—and a 12-ounce can of tonic contains eight teaspoons of added sugar, Sass says. Enter seltzer.
"Adding seltzer to a cocktail is always a great choice since it provides zero calories and zero grams of sugar," Gans says. A G&S lets you get that same bubbly feel and gin taste without all the added calories.
Calorie count: 97 cals
Yes, small amounts of alcohol, including red wine, can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. But are you sabotaging yourself with a heavy-handed pour? It's all too easy, and common, to consume too much, Sass says.
But, sticking with the proper serving size—5 ounces—and having just one glass of wine in a sitting will help keep calories down. "It's a good choice in terms of calories," Warren says. Pro tip, per Brissette: Go for drier varietals like sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. These tend to be lower in sugar and calories, she points out.
Calorie count: 125 cals
Like wine, portions matter here, Gans says. "A classic vodka or gin martini is around 120 calories—however that is if only a single shot of alcohol is included and around 1/3 of an ounce of vermouth," she points out.
While martinis are notoriously strong, Brissette says that can be a good thing when it comes to calories. "Sipping on such a strong cocktail probably means you'll drink it more slowly than a sweeter drink made with juice or syrup," she says. If you want a little flavor in the mix, she recommends adding a twist of lemon to infuse a citrusy taste or making your drink dirty with a splash of olive juice—it only adds about five calories.
Calorie count: 120 cals
A glass of chilled white wine can be totally refreshing during this hectic time of year, but pick the type you sip on carefully. Dry white wines, such as a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, tend to have lower sugar content, which translates to fewer calories, Suss says. Sweeter varieties like Riesling could have closer to 165 calories per serving.
And, again, serving size matters. You want to strive for five ounces which, Gans points out, is "a smaller pour than most of us do."
Calorie count: 121 cals
RELATED: 15 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Beer's often thought of as the ultimate bloat-bringer, but it may not be all that bad. In one study of over 70,000 women, researchers found that those who drank moderate amounts of beer had lower blood pressure than those who drank wine or spirits. "Beers contain several B vitamins," explains Sass. "A 12-ounce beer also packs more calcium, magnesium, and selenium, which is a key antioxidant, than a serving of wine." The regular version will set you back closer to 160 calories per 12 ounces.
Many beers don't list calories on their labels, so Brissette recommends trying this hack: "Look for a beer that has an alcohol by volume of four and you'll be getting about 100 calories for a 12 ounce" serving.
Calorie count: 100 cals
Sure, it's a little basic, but a vodka soda may be your healthiest choice if you're in the mood for hard alcohol. When you combine a shot of vodka with seltzer, you skirt excess calories—and a nasty hangover. "Soda water or club soda is calorie-free since it's just bubbly water," explains Sass. "It's also a good cocktail mixer because it hydrates and contains no added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Plus, the bubbles may slow you down so you don't slam the drink."
Calorie count: 97 cals
The rules of picking out a lower-calorie Champagne are the same as they are for wine. "When choosing your champagne, know that 'dry' means less sugar and calories," Brissette says. You can also look for "brut" on the label, which is French for unsweetened or dry.
Calorie count: 95 cals
A mojito is a combo of muddled mint leaves, rum, and soda water, with sugar. You want to strive for a six-ounce serving with this one. Just know this, per Gans: If you get your mojito from a restaurant or bar, it may be a bit bigger than that. Also, scaling back on how much sugar you use, or swapping in a sweetener like stevia for regular sugar, can help cut back on calories.
Calorie count: 143 cals
Think of a Paloma as the grapefruit lover's alternative to a margarita. It features tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and soda water for a margarita-style taste. "This refreshing drink is a lighter alternative to a margarita which is typically made with plenty of agave and/or plenty of sugar-sweetened bar lime," Brissette says. Use fresh grapefruit juice instead of the bottled stuff to save on calories.
Calorie count: 170 cals
To get more nutrition and diet tips delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Balanced Bites newsletter