Alcohol and Weight Loss – Can you have both?

So, you’re trying to lose weight. As a savvy dieter, you know that most alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories and carbs that you just don’t want after a day of healthy eating.

But your friends are all going out for drinks after work, or there’s an open bar at a birthday party. Do you pop your red wine pill (all antioxidants, no fun) and stay in for the night, or do you have options that won’t blow all of your healthy choices for the day?

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Let’s start with the bad and the ugly. What isn’t diet-friendly?

  1. Most Mixed Drinks

Just say no. Most of us get these at bars and restaurants when we’re out with friends or family, and they’re loaded with sweeteners (and sometimes full-fat cream). They have a mix behind the bar that’s probably mostly sugar, and they add a splash of liquor to it. Sugar is a lot cheaper than booze. If you head out to your local bar/restaurant and order something along the lines of sangria, a margarita, or a long island iced tea, you’re probably consuming between 250 and 450 calories and 20-40 grams of sugar, numbers that should make anyone think twice.

If you’re out with friends and want to enjoy a cocktail, opt for a diet soda and rum or a cocktail without fruit juice, mixes, or added liqueurs. Some chain restaurants even offer low-calorie mixed drink options made with sugar alternatives.

2. Beer

It’s called beer belly for a reason. Beer can be loaded with carbs. If you just don’t want to do without, try to find a lager or a light lager. Trendy IPAs can have 15 grams of carbs or more, and stouts can clock in even higher.

3. Hard Cider and Malt Beverages

Ciders and malt beverages have become more popular as gluten-free diets have become more common, but they’re even higher in carbs than beer because of their high sugar content.

4. Liqueurs

By definition a liqueur is hard liquor that has been flavored somehow and sweetened with sugar or other sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. As a rule, if sugar is in the definition, it’s not diet-friendly. For reference, consider that 100 ml (a little over 2 shots) of Bailey’s has 327 calories and 20 grams of sugar (

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So what can you drink on a diet?

Most diets are focused on keeping carbs to a minimum and calories within a certain range, so you’re looking for drinks that don’t contain a lot of sugar and or grains. This includes clear spirits, some wines, and light beers.

  1. Wine

Go ahead with that glass of wine, especially if you enjoy dry varieties. Generally, dry wines don’t have very high sugar content. A 5 oz. glass of Pinot Noir only has 3.4 grams of carbohydrates.

2. Straight Hard Liquor

It’s not just for guys in bars trying to look like James Dean. Though many types of liquor are made from grains, the distillation process removes most or all carbohydrates. Many dieters have taken all of the add-ins out of their high-sugar mixed drinks and found that they enjoy clear liquors like gin, tequila, rum, and vodka on their own. A word of caution – you might have a better experience with straight liquor if you stay away from the bottom shelf.

3. Homemade Cocktails

This sounds like a lot of work, but hear me out. Most cocktails come down to three key ingredients – liquor, an acid, and a sweetener. You just throw them in a container with some ice and stir or shake. Voila. And if you’re measuring out the ingredients, you can control the amount of sweetener in the drink to make a cocktail that’s just sweet enough to be fun.

Dieting doesn’t have to mean saying no to alcohol all the time. By sticking to healthy choices, you can still celebrate the end of the work week or a friend’s new apartment without feeling like you’re undoing all of your hard work. As always, talk to a doctor if you have questions while planning a new diet.