All alcoholic beverages contain calories, and if you eat and drink more calories than your body uses, you will gain weight. To limit this effect, choose the least fattening alcoholic drinks, and try to compensate for them by eating healthier foods or fewer snacks.
Remember to drink in moderation. Even if you choose the least fattening alcoholic drink, each additional drink adds more calories, slows your metabolism and stresses your liver, according to the American Council on Exercise.
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Dry wines, light beers and 80-proof spirits tend to be the least fattening alcoholic drinks. For cocktails, avoid adding extra calories with juice or regular soda.
Wine vs. Beer
The calories in wine are relatively low — about 125 calories per 5 ounces, depending on the type of wine, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Dry white wine is the least fattening type of wine, followed by dry red wine and then sweet wines of either color.
For the lowest calories in wine, choose a dry chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or dry champagne. If you prefer red, choose burgundy, merlot or sauvignon cabernet. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that one standard drink serving is 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.
As for wine versus beer, a 12-ounce bottle of light beer usually has 100 to 110 calories, although it varies by brand. Hence, a light beer contains about the same number of calories as a glass of wine, but it has three times as much volume.
Among all alcoholic beverages, beer has one of the lowest calories-per-ounce counts. If you guzzle the beer, this doesn't matter much. However, if you drink it at a moderate pace, this option can help you enjoy your beverage for a longer time without consuming more calories.
Read more: Beer vs. Wine Calorie Count
What About Straight Liquor?
The question of wine vs. beer becomes irrelevant if you're more of a spirits drinker. One shot of straight liquor — containing 1.5 oz. of liquid — holds about 100 calories. This applies to any standard 80-proof liquor, including gin, tequila, rum, vodka and whiskey.
Flavored liquors, such as Kahlua, schnapps, Malibu rum or Baileys, contain significantly more calories. Mixing the alcohol with juice or regular soda also adds a lot of calories. Try a small martini, whiskey on the rocks or chilled tequila in a snifter. Because these drinks are full strength, sip slowly.
To stretch out the calories in a shot of liquor and to enjoy a more easily drinkable beverage, try combining liquor with a noncaloric mixer. Use diet soda instead of regular soda to make a whiskey and cola, a vodka in ginger ale, or a rum and Coke.
Use diet tonic water to make a low-calorie vodka tonic or gin and tonic. Soda water or even plain water mixes well with whiskey or tequila, opening up their complex flavors so you can savor them more fully.
Read more: Which Is Healthier: Beer or Hard Alcohol?
Practicing Moderation Is Key
Aside from the calories in wine, beer and spirits, always drink in moderation — no more than four or five drinks in a day. The least fattening alcoholic drink isn't going to help your health if you're drinking excessively.
For men, more than four drinks a day or 14 in a week is considered at-risk or heavy drinking. For women, risky drinking is considered more than three drinks a day or seven in a week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The more drinks you have in a day and the more frequently you have a heavy drinking day, the greater your risk of developing health problems. Liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke, stomach bleeding and certain cancers are all possible outcomes of drinking too much, too often. Managing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep disorders also becomes more challenging with excessive alcohol consumption.
With moderate use, drinking alcohol can be enjoyable and may even have aid heart health. To enjoy the benefits, women should drink no more than a glass per day, and for men, no more than two.
- American Council on Exercise: "Slow Metabolism: 8 Things That Slow Down Your Metabolism"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Calorie Count — Alcoholic Beverages"
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "What Is a Standard Drink?"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "What's 'At-Risk' or 'Heavy' Drinking?"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "What Are the Risks?"
- Alcohol Problems and Solutions; Alcohol, Calories & Weight; David J. Hanson