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These Are the 3 Best and Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Your Diet

September 18, 2023

Maintaining a balanced diet takes more than just eating healthy – you have to drink healthy, too.

But if you’ve been ordering gin & tonics to keep your calories down, Jamie Allers, MS, RD, has some bad news for you.

“Just as soda adds calories to your daily intake, so does alcohol,” says Allers, part of Hartford HealthCare’s Digestive Health Institute. “And depending on what you’re drinking, those calories can add up fast.”

So here are the best – and the worst – alcoholic drinks for your diet.

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The 3 Best Drinks for Your Diet

1. Purely distilled spirits

If you’re strictly looking to keep calories low, these are your best bet.

“In purely distilled spirits, there are only seven calories per gram,” Allers says. “And there’s no major difference in calories or carbohydrates between the different types.”

But proceed with caution – Allers notes that just a couple of these drinks could lower your inhibitions.

2. Red wine

Do you look forward to a glass of wine each night with dinner?

The good news, Allers says, is that in moderation, red wine does have some benefits. Similar to probiotics, it’s been shown to boost the diversity of good bacteria in the gut. And if that’s not enough, red wine has long been thought to benefit heart health.

The bad news, though, is that’s only true in moderation. “When you pour a glass of wine, how much is that?” Allers asks. “A serving is five ounces. Did you pour five ounces?”

Like any other type of alcohol, drinking too much wine – or drinking it every day – can have serious consequences for your health.

> Related: Is Alcohol Giving Me Acid Reflux?

3. Light beer

If you can’t seem to turn down a beer on a night out, all is not lost.

“Some beers can have as many as 400 calories,” Allers cautions, “but there are lots of other options out there.” Beck’s Premium Light and Miller64 each come in at 64 calories per 12 ounce serving.

And that serving size is another thing to keep an eye on, says Allers. “On the beer label, it will typically tell you calories per 12 ounces,” she notes. “But if you are in a restaurant and they serve pints, that’s 16 ounces.”

Honorary mentions

Didn’t see your favorites on the list? Other healthy options include:

  • Vodka soda
  • Champagne
  • Wine spritzers
  • Bloody Mary
  • Paloma

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The 3 Worst Drinks for Your Diet

1. Long Island iced tea

These don’t just pack a punch when it comes to alcohol content – they’re loaded with calories, too.

Considered one of the most dangerous – and unhealthy – drinks, a Long Island iced tea doesn’t actually contain any iced tea. Instead, it’s a combination of vodka, gin, rum, tequila and triple sec, topped with sour mix and soda. All together, that means one Long Island contains as many as 780 calories.

So do your future self a favor, and pass on this one. Your body will thank you the next morning.

2. Margarita

If you never miss a chance to celebrate Taco Tuesday, you might want to skip this section.

Coming in at a whopping 740 calories, the basic margarita is one of the least healthy cocktails around. Especially if you’re using a premade mix, these can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels.

There is a silver lining, though – these are one of the easiest drinks to make “skinny.” For a healthier option, try skipping the sour mix and the triple sec, and stick to lime juice and tequila.

3. Pina colada

For me, this one’s a real heartbreaker.

Weighing in at 644 calories, pina coladas round out our list of drinks to avoid. And they aren’t just loaded with calories – they’re riddled with sugar and fat, too.

The primary culprit here is the coconut cream base, which is packed with saturated fat.

Honorary mentions

Even if your go to drink wasn’t in the bottom three, you aren’t in the clear quite yet. Watch out for these other calorie-packed cocktails:

  • White Russian
  • Mai Tai
  • Champagne cocktail
  • Fog cutter
  • Gin/vodka tonic