Most people inherently know that alcohol is not considered nutritious by any standard, and drinking too much alcohol can lead to weight gain, among other adverse health effects.
However, alcoholic beverages are not only a common way to celebrate or interact in social situations, but drinking alcohol in moderation can also decrease stress and anxiety and provide social “lubrication“ to make you feel more at ease in the company of others.
With that in mind, knowing what the healthiest alcoholic drinks are can help you make the best choices when it comes to choosing the healthiest alcohol to drink when you don’t want your imbibing to impede your weight loss results or compromise your health.
So, which alcohol is healthiest? Which alcoholic drinks are the lowest in calories? What alcoholic beverage should you drink if you want to lose weight?
In this article, we will discuss low-calorie alcoholic beverages and have put together a ranking of the healthiest alcohol to drink.
More specifically, we will cover:
- Does Drinking Alcohol Lead to Weight Gain?
- Which Alcohol Is Healthiest?
- Ranking the Healthiest Alcoholic Drinks
Let’s get started!
Does Drinking Alcohol Lead to Weight Gain?
Alcohol isn’t considered one of the three primary macronutrients (those being carbohydrates, protein, and fat), but it does contain calories independent of any added sugars or mixers.
Carbohydrates and proteins each contain 4 kcal/energy per gram, fat provides 9 kcal per gram, and alcohol contains 7 kcal/gram.
However, the caloric content of any alcoholic beverage depends on the other ingredients in the drink, and alcohol consumption may be a risk factor for weight gain.
Which Alcohol Is Healthiest?
It can’t really be argued that any type of alcohol is “healthy“ per se, but which type of alcohol is the lowest in calories?
The calorie count in the most common types of alcohol, from the lowest-calorie alcohol to the highest-calorie alcohol, based on one typical serving is as follows:
- Champagne: One 4-ounce glass contains 90 calories (3 grams carbs, 1 gram sugar)
- Vodka and Rum: 1.5 ounces (one shot) contains 97 calories (0 gram carbs, 0 gram sugar)
- Whiskey, Bourbon, and Scotch: 1.5 ounces (1 shot) contains 105 calories (0.03 grams of carbs per ounce, 0.03 grams of sugar per ounce)
- Tequila: 1.5 ounces (one shot) contains 105 calories (0 gram carbs, 0 gram sugar)
- Gin: 1.5 ounces (one shot) contains 110 calories (0 gram carbs, 0 gram sugar)
- Wine: One 5-ounce glass of wine contains about 123 calories (4 grams carbs, 1 gram sugar)
- Baileys: 1.5 ounces (one shot) contains about 147 calories (11 grams carbs, 9 grams sugar)
- Beer: One 12-ounce bottle contains about 153 calories (13 grams carbs, 0 gram sugar)
Ranking the Healthiest Alcoholic Drinks
It is hard to say which type of alcohol is “healthiest,” but the following is a fairly objective ranking of the healthiest alcoholic drinks, mainly in terms of the lowest-calorie alcoholic beverages.
#1 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Champagne
Champagne is a sparkling white wine; it has fewer calories than a glass of regular white wine due to the fact that it is a dry wine, so much of the sugar is converted to alcohol during the fermentation process.
Moreover, the bubbly nature of champagne may help naturally limit how much you drink by helping fill you up.
Unlike red wine, champagne isn’t particularly rich in antioxidants and has limited nutritional value, but it is low in calories in sugar.
If you don’t like plain champagne, or you want to extend the drink without adding calories from more alcohol, you can add a splash of grapefruit juice and seltzer.
Grapefruit juice will add some sugar, but you’ll also get vitamin C, and seltzer adds no calories and amplifies the bubbly nature of champagne for a light, refreshing relatively healthy alcoholic drink.
#2 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Dry Wine
Different varieties of wine have slightly different nutritional facts and caloric content. Because wine originates from grapes, there is some inherent sugar in the drink.
However, a lot of the natural sugar in wine is converted to alcohol during the fermentation process, which significantly reduces the amount of sugar in the wine, especially compared to alcohol and pre-made bottled sugary alcoholic beverages.
Dry wines are particularly healthy because even more sugar is fermented, reducing the overall carbohydrate content and caloric content.
The calories in white wine and red wine tend to be similar, but the exact number of calories in a glass of wine varies not just on the amount of sugar in the wine but also on the alcoholic content of the wine.
White wine tends to be lower in alcohol by volume (ABV) but slightly higher in sugar than red wine, so the resultant calories per serving of wine are similar, but the source of the calories varies.
Thus, whether red wine or white wine is healthier depends slightly on your primary nutritional goals—whether you’re aiming to consume fewer carbs and sugar or want a lower alcohol intake.
One other tick in the box towards red wine being the healthiest wine is the fact it contains antioxidants like resveratrol, which may reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Overall, dry wines tend to be healthiest because they are lower in sugar than sweet wines and dessert wines. Rosé wine, which is usually sweeter than red or white wine, is resultantly higher in calories and thus a less healthy wine.
#3 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Vodka Soda
The drink of choice for many people on a diet is a vodka soda, as it is one of the lowest-calorie alcoholic drinks.
Because club soda (or seltzer) contains zero calories and no sugar, a vodka soda is a sugar-free alcoholic drink that’s low in calories.
You can add a squeeze of lime or lemon to add more flavor without adding an appreciable number of calories or grams of sugar.
Keep in mind that tonic water or other sweet mixers, like sour mix, do contain sugar and calories, so vodka tonics and vodka sours are not as healthy as vodka sodas.
Although a vodka soda is one of the lowest-calorie alcoholic beverages, it doesn’t provide any nutritional value.
#4 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Rum, Gin, Scotch, Whiskey, or Tequila Neat
Any hard spirits without added sugary mixers are inherently low in calories and sugar and are, therefore, a good option for alcoholic drinks on a diet.
Whether you choose to have rum, gin, scotch, whiskey, or tequila neat (straight up) or on the rocks (with ice), you’ll be enjoying a low-sugar or sugar-free alcoholic drink that’s low in calories.
Be mindful that adding sour mix, tonic water, or any other mixers besides club soda or seltzer will add calories and sugars unless you add diet tonic water.
Regular tonic water is quite sugary, and diet tonic water, while free from calories, is not particularly “healthy“ because it contains artificial sweeteners. These types of chemical compounds have been associated with adverse health effects, including weight gain.
Therefore, sticking to club soda to dilute your alcohol is ideal.
A squeeze of fresh citrus into your drink will add a bit of flavor without adding many calories.
#5 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Tequila Lime Splash
Vodka sodas may be the go-to alcoholic drink for those on a diet, but a tequila soda with a splash of lime is a close second and is often considered more flavorful.
#6 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Rum and Diet Cola
When it comes to low-calorie alcoholic beverages, rum and Diet Coke is high on the list, though the diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which not only provide no nutritional value but may also be particularly unhealthy.
Therefore, depending on your health priorities (preventing weight gain or promoting overall health), rum and Diet Coke may be a decent or poor choice for one of the “healthiest alcoholic drinks.”
#7 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Light Beers
Beer is typically considered one of the least healthy alcoholic drinks because it is made from malted cereal grains, so it is high in carbs and sugars.
Certain beers, such as stouts like Guinness, craft beers, and IPAs, are also higher in alcohol by volume, so they contain even more calories per bottle.
For this reason, if you’re looking for low-calorie alcoholic drinks, it is certainly best to avoid these types of beer in particular.
With that being said, some light beers are surprisingly low in calories, sugar, and alcohol per serving. Examples include Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, Miller Light, and Bud Light Lager Beer.
#8 Healthiest Alcoholic Drink: Bloody Mary
A Bloody Mary combines vodka with tomato juice, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and celery.
If you use low-sodium tomato juice and make it fresh rather than use a pre-made mixer, a Bloody Mary can be a fairly healthy alcoholic drink that’s not only low in calories but also rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
If you are interested in looking into some more information on alcohol and the effects it has on the body, take a look at our article: Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth?