Yes, red wine made the list. (Phew!)
Drinking isn't the healthiest pastime. In fact, a 2018 study from The Lancet shows that no amount of alcohol is actually good for you. But hey, we still do it, and experts say that drinking in moderation (that’s one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men) is probably okay.
When you do imbibe, one way you can make it healthier is choosing the lowest calorie alcohol, ensuring your sipper will have as minimal impact as possible on your weight. “Alcohol itself is very calorie dense,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N., a dietitian based in New York City. “The more alcohol a drink has, the more calories it contains—just one shot of any sort of liquor is about 100 calories,” she says.
What makes alcoholic drinks so calorie-dense is the simple syrups and sugary drink mixes, like cranberry juice and soda, that increase the sugar content of the cocktail. But even the calories in wine, beer, and liquor can quickly add up. For example, if you start having two glasses of red wine every night of the week, that tacks an extra 1,750 calories onto your diet every week. And if you change nothing else about what you're consuming, those extra calories could add up to 25 pounds of weight gain over the course of a year. Yikes. Here are high-calorie cocktail add-ins to avoid:
- Simple syrup and sugar
- Fruit juices and pre-made drink mixes, like ones for margaritas, daiquiris, and pina coladas
- Maraschino cherries and other jarred or canned fruits drenched in syrup
Some of the key points to remember when ordering is to ask for no syrups, opt for fresh juices with no added sugars, club soda, or sparkling water, and watch for portion sizes. A standard serving of beer is 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces, and liquor is 1.5 ounces (a shot glass).
"The biggest thing to remember is that you’re getting the bulk of your calories from the alcohol itself," Moskovitz advises. “So, try to pick mixers that don’t contribute extra calories or sugars.”
With all this in mind, we asked registered dietitians for tips on how to choose the healthiest alcoholic drink at your next happy hour, and ranked the best low-calorie alcoholic drinks.