Lowest-calorie alcohol: 17 drinks to choose if you’re trying to lose weight

Choosing the lowest-calorie alcohol can help you stay on track with your diet while still enjoying yourself, here are the best options to choose from

Two glasses of cocktail, the lowest-calorie alcohol in some cases, sitting on wooden chopping board
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If you're looking for the lowest-calorie alcohol to enjoy on a diet, you're not the only one. While drinking famously gets in the way of weight loss progress, choosing a beverage with fewer calories can help you stay on track while you'll have a good time.

In fact, regardless of what it is, there’s an argument for not entirely removing the parts of your diet you enjoy when trying to lose weight. As evidence here will show, it’s more likely to lead to binging behavior further down the line than actually contribute to weight loss in any significant way. 

Naturally, we should all be aware that there are alternatives to alcohol as well if you're actually looking to stop drinking at the moment. There's an argument for moderate drinking too and monitoring how much we drink, especially if you find yourself drinking alcohol every day - for so many other reasons other than weight loss. However, if you’re looking for the best low-calorie alcoholic drinks in a can or low-calorie beer to order at a bar the next time you’re out, we’ve got you covered. This is what you need to know about losing weight and drinking, according to two nutritionists. 

Lowest-calorie alcohol options

1. Vodka soda

A standard vodka soda contains around 100 calories if you use 1.5oz (around 44ml) of 80 proof vodka (40% alcohol) and unflavored soda water, which contains 0 calories. Spice up your drink with a slice of fresh lime rather than cordial to stick within the daily recommended sugar intake as well. 

For the same reasons, if you're heading out for a cocktail hour, choose one of the low calorie cocktails like a Martini made with vodka as this will be the lowest calorie option. 

Pear vodka and tonic water in glass, sitting in the sun, representing the lowest-calorie alcohol

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2. Whisky

Whisky is another one of the lowest calorie options for weight loss, with a standard 1.5oz serving of 86 proof (43% alcohol) setting you back about 110 calories. 

As with most alcoholic drinks, it’s not necessarily the alcohol that will push you out of your calorie deficit, it’s the mixer. This is definitely the case with whisky, as unless you drink it straight up, it’s mixed with sodas and drinks packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners, while null in calories, have been known to actually prevent weight loss in some cases. As a study by Yale University explains, sucralose and other artifical sugar replacements will still encourage a sugar craving and can eventually lead to sugar dependence, since repeated exposure trains our flavor preferences.

So if you’re looking to cut back on the calories, spritz your whisky with soda water to dilute the intensity rather than high-sugar drinks like cola or ginger beer. 

3. Tequila

Tequila is having its moment in 2023 and when it comes to the best alcohol to drink when dieting, it’s definitely clear to see why. A normal 1.5oz serving of tequila has 110 calories per shot, making it one of the lowest on our list.

But don’t be fooled when it comes to the other health claims made about this popular spirit, as outlined in a study by the University of Guadalajara. It’s true that tequila contains agavins, a natural sugar that both sweetens the drink and acts as a form of fiber, which is an important macronutrient involved in the weight loss process when it comes to feeling full. However, any benefit this fiber offers will be quickly quashed if you drink a little too much of the spirit. 

Shot of tequila with salt around the rim and lemons on a wooden chopping board

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4. Bourbon

Bourbon is a type of American whisky, distilled from a mixture made mainly of corn. The main difference between bourbon, which includes brands like Jack Daniels and Bulleit, and regular whisky is that bourbon can only be produced in the United States. 

For those looking to find the lowest-calorie alcohol, bourbon could be a great choice at only 97 calories per 1.5oz, which is over 10 calories less than traditional whisky. Combine with a Diet Coke, ice and slice, for a refreshing drink under 100 calories. 

5. Seltzers

Seltzers like White Claw, which is essentially flavored alcoholic sparkling water, have soared in popularity in recent years thanks to their relatively high alcohol percentage and low-calorie count. Typically served in a can, the standard seltzer contains around 95 calories per serving, 

If you're looking to cut down your alcohol intake, then these are also a good option to go for as they're a popular one in the range of best non-alcoholic low-calorie drinks in a can as well, meaning you can alternate between drinking alcohol with a soft drink.

6. Prosecco

If you're more of a wine drinker, then prosecco might be a good alternative for you. With just 70 calories per 4oz/118ml glass, it's one of the lowest calorie options on our list. 

Another way to reduce your calorie intake when it comes to wine is to buy low-alcohol wines as the higher percentage of alcohol there is in a drink, the higher it is in calories. Reduce the alcohol, reduce the calories.

Woman checking label on prosecco or champagne bottle at liquor store

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7. Champagne

It's one of the more expensive types of alcohol but if you're concerned about calorie intake, then it's one of the best. At a standard 80 calories per 4oz/118ml glass, it's along the same lines as prosecco but has a much drier taste. 

However, it's best to opt for 'low dosage' champagne. Often marked out on the bottle, this is when less sugar than normal is added to the brut at the end of the bottling process. Choosing one of these champagnes could reduce your count per glass down to just 65 calories in some cases. 

8. Light beer

If you like a pint at the pub, try to go for one of the best low-calorie beers - like a light beer. These are usually easy to identify as they're often just 'lighter' (read: low calorie) versions of traditional lagers and ales, like Bud Light or Coors Light, and are labeled as such. 

Surprisingly though, some regular beers also make it onto this list. Guinness on draught, for instance, only contains 125 calories per 20oz/pint. 

9. Cider

Cider is the perfect summer drink: fruity, refreshing, tangy, and deceptively low in calories. However, this does depend on the brand you choose. Opt for a classic Strongbow and you can have 500ml/16oz for 175 calories, however, Thatchers Gold Somerset Cider has 230 calories per 500ml/16oz. 

Two glasses of red wine, the lowest-calorie alcohol, sitting on table in restaurant

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10. Red wine

Red wine is hardly one of the best foods for weight loss. At around 120 calories per 6oz/175ml glass, it's one of the higher-calorie drinks on our list, but it's still lower in calories than white or rose wine. Sticking with darker red wines will be best rather than light and fruity ones, as a Merlot may contain as little as 88 calories per glass. 

11. Gin and slimline tonic water

Gin is another lower-calorie spirit, made in the same way as vodka but infused with botanicals. Unlike vodka, whisky or tequila though, it's rare to drink gin straight as a shot so people often mix it with tonic water - which needs to be slimline if you're after the best alcohol to drink when dieting. 

A 1.5oz/44ml shot of gin comes in at 123 calories and when combined with slimline tonic water, 5 calories per 8oz/250ml on average, the drink comes in at under 130 calories per serving.

12. White wine

If it's the choice between red or white when you're looking for a drink to order at a bar, always go for red. However, white wine - depending on the type that you choose - has around 131 calories in each typical 6oz/175ml serving.

A drier white like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc is also preferable to sweeter ones like Chardonnay, which tend to have more sugar in them and so more calories. 

Two glasses of white wine together, couple clinking glasses

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13. White wine spritzer

To half the calories in a serving of white wine, make it a spritzer. This is a half-and-half combination of white wine and soda. If there are 131 calories in each typical 6oz/175ml serving of standard white wine, there will only be 65.5 calories in a serving of white white spritzer, provided you pair the wine with a zero-calorie soda water or lemonade.  

14. Rum and Diet Coke

A Cuba Libre, otherwise known as white rum and Diet Coke with a slice of lime, is a popular cocktail you'll be able to find at most happy hours. A 7.5-ounce/225ml serving comes in at about 135 calories with 33% less sugar than a traditional, full-fat Coca-Cola - so be sure to order the 'diet' version. 

15. Caipirinha

If a Martini doesn't take your fancy and you're in the mood for a cocktail, go for a Caipirinha. This is the national drink of Brazil, made from a type of sugarcane spirit called cachaça, sugar, and muddled with lime. 

At 152 calories per serving on average, it sits on the lower end of the cocktail spectrum where calories are concerned. 

Caipirinha cocktail with slices of lime and salt on the rim, sat on wooden chopping board

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16. Bloody Mary

Next up is brunch's homegrown cocktail, the Bloody Mary. This one has 167 calories per serving - depending on the ingredients - and is made from a spicy combination of vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, a dash of lime juice, a splash of Tabasco, and a sprinkle of pepper. 

If you've ever sat over the table and wondered how long do hangovers last with a pounding headache, someone has probably told you to try one of these. However, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that the so-called 'hair of the dog' is the worst thing to do if you're feeling the effects of the night before. Not only does additional alcohol equal additional calories but drinking more will put more strain on your liver to break down the alcohol. A study by Purdue University also found that those who drink on a hangover are more likely to have alcohol problems further down the line.

17. Manhattan

This sleek cocktail is made up of whisky (2oz at about 105 calories), sweet vermouth (1oz at 64 calories), and bitters (zero calories), totting up to a total of 169 calories per drink. At just two calories more per serving than a Bloody Mary, it's the perfect alternative for those who want a stronger cocktail but don't quite want to drink their whisky straight. 

What alcohol is best for weight loss?

The alcohol that’s best for weight loss is low calorie vodka (100 calories per 1.5oz/44ml), whisky (110 calories per 1.5oz/44ml), or tequila (110 calories per 1.5oz/44ml). Although these are high-percentage spirits, they contain fewer calories per 100ml than other types of alcohol, meaning you’re more likely to be able to maintain a calorie deficit. 

A calorie deficit is when you consume fewer calories than you burn every day. “You can do this by eating less, exercising more, or changing the way you eat,” explains Dr Alona Pulde, who specializes in nutrition and lifestyle medicine. “Those who have been on the dieting wagon know that the first two don’t work long-term. However, eating healthy, especially when choosing whole foods plant-based diet, has been shown to support weight loss without restriction and deprivation.”

Drinking in moderate quantities can be part of this but it’s important to stay within the recommended guidelines for alcohol intake, for both your goals and your overall health. While there's research, including a study by the University of Iowa to suggest that no quantity of alcohol is safe for human consumption, NHS guidelines advise up to 14 units of alcohol per week with several completely alcohol-free days a week. The CDC recommends no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men. 

If you can’t achieve this without an issue then it’s worth considering whether you could be dealing with a drinking problem and if this is the case, contact your doctor for advice. 

Can you still lose weight if you drink alcohol?

Yes, you can still lose weight if you drink alcohol because weight loss depends on whether you’re in a calorie deficit. As long as you continue to consume fewer calories than you’re burning every day, you will lose weight. 

Dr Pulde, who works with the healthy eating app Lifesum, offers a suggestion for how to do this when drinking. “Decide ahead of time how much you plan to drink and honor that commitment,” she says. “Try having smaller glasses or bottles, and if it helps, let your wallet limit you and take only the money you will need for the evening you have planned.” This, along with following a plan like the 80/20 diet rule which is based around moderation, could help you avoid ‘accidentally’ drinking too much and pushing yourself out of that all-important deficit. 

Naturally though, staying in the deficit while drinking is harder than going tee-total for a while or reducing your consumption right down.

Healthy woman going out for a run with phone armband after drinking lowest-calorie alcohol

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How alcohol affects weight loss

Firstly, alcohol calories are ‘empty’, meaning they hold no nutritional value and don’t meet any relevant nutritional needs - but are still stored in our body as fat. “These add up quickly when multiple drinks are consumed in one sitting,” warns Dr Pulde, “And the impact can be quite significant as alcohol rarely replaces, but rather is added on to, our daily caloric intake.”

Not only that, she continues, but alcohol interferes with the part of the brain that controls our hunger cues. “This often leads to a decrease in willpower and an increase in poor food choices,” she says. “Not only do we choose unhealthy foods but we are also more likely to overeat those foods.”

As research from Indiana University School of Medicine confirms, drinkers often suffer from a so-called ‘aperitif effect’ where we are more likely to eat more food if we have a drink before a meal. One of the reasons behind this, the study leads concluded, was that alcohol increases activity in the brain regions that signal reward and regulate our normal feeding behaviors, including hunger signals.

Another study by the University of Sheffield also found that this is particularly the case with those already on some kind of restrictive diet as alcohol encourages disinhibition and the abandonment of restraint thanks to its effect on the brain. 

And the following day, post-drinking session, you’re unlikely to be up and moving to a Pilates for weight loss class to help burn any additional calories you consumed the night before. “After a night of drinking we feel sluggish and tired and less motivated to get up and move,” Dr Pudle says, “Plus, alcohol disrupts both sleep duration and quality.” 

Woman exercising in garden with yoga mat and handheld weights

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It’s not only our brains that are affected by alcohol though. “It also causes our blood sugar to drop by interrupting the way the liver breaks down and releases glucose into the bloodstream,” Elisa Gomez de Bonilla, a nutritionist with a holistic approach to wellness, explains. “As soon as blood sugar dips, we’re likely going to want to find a quick solution and this normally leads to us eating more.”

As well as this, alcohol slows down the body’s fat-burning process. “Our liver is responsible for the storage and processing of the fat, carbohydrates, and proteins we consume, breaking them down and metabolizing them into energy. But as our bodies cannot store alcohol, they must break it down before everything else, including fat,” Gomez de Bonilla, who works with Oxford Online Pharmacy, says.

The result is an interruption, she continues, and this slows down the metabolic rate of the body and reduces the amount of fat that the body burns for energy.

Tips for drinking on a diet

The evidence is pretty clear here: sure, you can theoretically lose weight when you’re drinking regularly but in actuality, you may find that you're dieting but not losing weight. If you are looking to lose weight and want to stick with a couple of drinks during the week, these are Dr Pulde’s and nutritionist Gomez de Bonilla’s tips: 

  • Have something to eat before you drink
  • Drink water between alcoholic beverages
  • Swap your regular gin and tonic (at 170 calories per serving) for a gin and slimline tonic (at 115 calories), or gin and soda with lime (100 calories)
  • Take a break from drinking
  • Avoid triggers like people or places that may tempt you into drinking more than you normally would
  • Share your commitment with friends and family so they can help you maintain accountability

If you’re struggling to lose weight healthily or you’re concerned about your alcohol intake, speak to your doctor.

Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer.

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.