Counting Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

If you're counting calories, think before taking that next drink. It could have more calories than your favorite dessert.

A cocktail before dinner or a glass or two of wine with the meal is so common that some people don't even give it a second thought. But if you're trying to watch calories, here is something to think about before you take that next alcoholic drink.

This may be news to some, but alcohol has a lot of calories, often more than the dessert you turn down. To boot, having a drink or two before or with a meal may actually stimulate you to eat more and take in more calories. Researchers speculate that alcohol increases the pleasure of eating. While "under the influence," it's also more likely that you will lose your inhibitions and indulge in foods that are less nutritious.

Without a doubt, the calories in your alcoholic drink can affect your waistline just as the alcohol can affect your mental functioning and physical health. But you can enjoy small amounts of alcohol and still maintain or even lose weight. The key? Arm yourself with calorie facts and follow the tips below.

How many calories are you drinking?
Weight gain, loss, or maintenance depends on how many calories you take in. Most people are completely unaware of how many calories are in certain drinks. It's easy to go overboard without realizing it.

The calorie amounts listed here are for an average size drink. Many drinks may have even more, depending on how big the tumbler, glass, or beer mug is.

Drink

Amount

Calories

Beer (regular)

12 oz.

150

Beer (light)

12 oz.

100

Daiquiri

10 oz.

300

Eggnog

8 oz.

350

Kahlua

1.5 oz.

140

Long Island iced tea

10 oz.

580

Martini

6 oz.

280

Margarita

8 oz.

420

Pina colada

10 oz.

550

Screwdriver

8 oz.

190

Shot of liquor

1.5 oz.

100

(gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

 

 

Whiskey sour

8 oz.

375

White Russian

8 oz.

500

Wine (red or white)

6 oz.

120

Other facts to consider
Here are two more things to keep in mind about alcohol:

  • Alcohol can cause dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water when you have alcohol. Your body is better able to process fat when it's properly hydrated.
  • Alcohol does not fill you up. Alcohol contains calories but doesn't typically make you full. This still leaves plenty of room for other indulgences.

Strategies for smart drinking

  • If you drink, do so only in moderation. This means no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
  • Check with your doctor before drinking alcoholic beverages if you take any medicines (over-the-counter or prescription) or if you have any medical problems.
  • Pay attention to the calories in alcohol. Know your facts so you can balance your calories for the day.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach. This will lead to faster absorption of the alcohol and even more impaired judgment.
  • Drink slowly and alternate each beverage with water or seltzer. This allows you to have something in your hand while spacing out your alcohol intake.
  • Dilute alcohol with water, ice, or seltzer. This avoids the extra calories found in mixers, sodas, and juices.
  • Trade a higher calorie drink for a lower one.
  • If you love eggnog, look for lower calorie versions in the supermarket.

In the end, a smart strategy includes a plan for both eating and drinking. With that in mind, it may be possible to include some alcohol in your meal plan without piling on the pounds.