Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks: Make Your Cocktails Diet Friendly
Alcohol is not calorie-free. In fact, per gram, alcohol provides about 7 calories. That is without added ingredients. Mixed drinks that contain alcohol, soda or juice and other ingredients can up the calorie count significantly. However, for some individuals, particularly over the holidays, the enjoyment of food, family, friends and celebration, with a cocktail or two, is worth the calorie sacrifice. That said, there are some fairly low-calorie alcoholic drinks to choose from.
Do all distilled spirits offer the same amount of calories (per shot or per ounce)?
When it comes to hard liquor, calorie counting can be even more confusing. The higher the alcohol content of your beverage, the more calories it contains. Wine averages about 12% alcohol. Distilled spirits, on the other hand, ranges between 40 to 50% alcohol. For example, the most common type of vodka served, 80-proof, is about 40% alcohol and offers 64 calories per ounce. Eighty-six proof vodka (43% alcohol) offers 70 calories per ounce, 90-proof vodka (90% alcohol) provides 73 calories per ounce and 100-proof vodka (50% alcohol) offers 82 calories per ounce. Many bartenders pour a generous 1.5 oz. serving. This makes a big difference when you are ordering your mixed drink, such as a rum and diet coke.
What is the recommended calorie limit for a cocktail if I am trying to manage my weight?
Keep in mind that these are ‘extra’ calories or ‘fun’ calories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ‘Choose My Plate’ plan allows room for discretionary calories, or those for treats, as long as you meet your recommended intake/servings from each of the food groups for the day. The discretionary calorie allotment for one individual versus another may be different and depends upon your activity level; however, it usually averages 100-300 calories. The best choices provide fewer than 120 calories per serving.
What are some of the lowest-calorie options for alcoholic beverages (from lowest to highest made with 80-proof distilled spirits)?
- ‘Ultra’ light beer (12 oz.) – 65 to 95 calories
- Mimosa (4 oz.) – 75 calories
- Light beer (12 oz.) – 95 to 130 calories
- Mike’s Hard Lemonade (11 oz.) – 98 calories
- Gin and diet tonic (7 oz.) – 100 calories
- Rum and diet Coke (5 oz.) – 100 calories
- ‘Skinnygirl’ Margarita (4 oz.) – 100 calories
- Wine spritzer, white, red or rosé (5 oz.) – 100 calories
- Champagne (5 oz.) – 105 to 120 calories
- Bloody Mary: (5 oz.) – 118 calories
- Red, white or rosé wine (4 oz.) – 120 calories
What are some ways I can reduce the calorie content of my favorite alcoholic/mixed drink?
Since there are flavored spirits available now, such as peach infused vodka, you can often skip the drink mix all together. Drink mixes are usually high in sugar and contain artificial flavors/colors. Try diluting your drink a bit with regular or sparkling water to lower the calorie content. If you like vodka and cranberry or a Screwdriver (vodka and orange juice) try using just a splash of juice or choose a low-calorie (diet) fruit juice cocktail. There are calorie-free drink mixes on the market you may wish to try, such as Baja Bob’s sugar-free sweet ‘n’ sour or margarita mix (0 calories) and/or sugar-free syrups (made by DaVinci or Torani). Finally, use low-calorie garnishes. Skip the Maraschino cherry and opt for a simple lemon, lime or orange wedge or a sprig of mint.
- Drummond, K.E. & Brefer, L.M.: Nutrition for Foodservice & Culinary Professionals, 7th ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, New York, 2010.