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Does Liquor Have Carbs?

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Does Liquor Have Carbs?
Slim down your drinks when dieting. Photo Credit donfiore/iStock/Getty Images

No one wants to miss a night on the town with friends, but if you're on a low-carbohydrate diet, your instinct might be to do just that. However, liquor, unlike beer or wine, contains zero carbs because of the distillation process. However, the mixers commonly combined with spirits often have loads of sugar, the simplest form of carbohydrate. Still, dieting is about making sensible changes you can keep up long-term. For some, it's unrealistic to completely abstain from alcoholic beverages, so find out how to incorporate the occasional drink into your lifestyle and still lose weight.

Carbohydrates in Mixed Liquor

While liquor itself is low in carbs, most drinks containing liquor may not work in a low-carb diet. Spirits are most commonly mixed with juices, sodas and syrups, all of which contain a significant amount of carbs. Sugary mixers are used to offset the harshness of liquor, so the typical cocktail will have ballpark range of 20 to 30 grams of carbs. A low-carb diet allows anywhere from 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates per day, which means one cocktail takes up a quarter to half of your daily carb allotment.

To give you an idea, cocktails such as margaritas and mojitos are made with 1 ounce of simple syrup, which contains about 23 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Other cocktails are made with 4 to 6 ounces of juice or soda. Let's say you have a vodka cranberry: The 4 ounces of cranberry juice contain 17 grams of carbs.

Fitting Liquor Into Low-Carbohydrate Diet

To fit in a drink from time to time, you'll need to swap sugary mixers for low/no-carb alternatives. For a drink that calls for soda, ask for diet versions. For example, a regular Jack and cola made with 6 ounces of cola contains 19 grams of carbs, but a Jack and diet cola has 0 carbs. Swap the juice in cocktails for diet versions of flavored sparkling water, which have little to no carbs, but add a dash of flavor to your drink. Instead of orange juice and vodka or cranberry juice and vodka, have diet orange sparkling water or diet cranberry sparkling water. Avoid regular flavored sparkling waters as they often have as much sugar as juice.

Low-Carbohydrate Clones

Experiment with making low-carb versions of your favorite cocktails, and if you're out, ask the bartender for "skinny" versions. To make a low-carb mojito, use fresh lime juice and diet lime soda for a tasty clone with fewer than 3 grams of carbs. Mix citrus-flavored vodka, diet cranberry juice and club soda for a skinny cosmopolitan that contains 2 grams of carbs. To make a skinny apple martini, combine apple-flavored vodka with club soda and fresh lemon juice for around 2 grams of carbs.

Calories Still Count

Even on a low-carb diet, your total calorie intake counts for weight loss. You'll add about 150 to 200 calories per drink to your diet if you stick to low-carb drinks. Limiting yourself to no more than two means you'll increase your calorie intake that day by 300 to 400 calories. Save drinks for an occasional treat and have no more than two. When you choose to drink, include the carbohydrates in each drink in your daily carb allotment and make adjustments to remain within your target range. Adjust your food choices to compensate for the additional calories you take in from the alcoholic beverages.

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