Can You Have Alcohol On Your Low-Carb Diet?
Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, whether it comes from beer, wine, liquor, or mixed drinks. It’s also carb-free. It does, however, slow metabolism quite a lot (“profoundly inhibits lipolysis,” as one medical journal article put it,) so don’t expect to actually lose weight if you’re making merry. Most of us will happily settle for getting to January 2nd without gaining.
Alcohol Carbohydrate Facts
The main thing to keep an eye on is the carbs and calories that come along with the alcohol. Take a look:
- A 1.5 ounce shot of 80 proof liquor, be it vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, or tequila, will have 97 calories, with no carbs, fiber, or protein.
- Combine that hard liquor with just 2 ounces of sour mix and you’ll add 57 calories, and 14 grams of pure sugar.
- Use 8 ounces of tonic water, and you’ll get 82 extra calories from 21 grams of sugar.
- Mix your rum with 8 ounces of cola and you’re adding 90 calories and 23 grams of sugar.
- Orange juice is more nutritious than most mixers, but still hard on the waistline – 8 ounces has 110 calories and 25 grams of sugar. Yes, natural sugar is still sugar!
- Fresh lime juice – you know, from limes – has only 8 calories per fluid ounce, and 2.8 grams of sugar. So no need to fear a wedge of lime. But Rose’s sweetened lime juice, a common ingredient in mixed drinks (including the popular Cosmopolitan) has 48 calories per fluid ounce, and 12 grams of sugar!
- A pina colada mixed from pineapple juice and coconut milk will have a whopping 245 calories and 32 grams of sugar. Yikes!
- Liqueurs and cordials like Kahlua, creme de menthe, creme de cacao, triple sec, and the like, are high in sugar, and therefore in carbs and calories. They vary, but figure between 12 and 16 grams of sugar per ounce – that’s between 48 and 64 calories from sugar, plus the alcohol, of course. Liqueurs are common ingredients in the currently trendy sweet varieties of “martini” – appletinis, chocotinis, and the like, making these drinks more sugary than you may realize. (I’ve already admitted I’m a geezer, and more proof will be had in my conviction that a true martini consists of six parts gin to one part dry vermouth – your choice of an olive or a twist of lemon. Which, by the way, makes a sugarless drink.)
- Irish Cream has both sugar and fat calories! Just 1.3 ounces will have 94 calories, with 7.4 grams of sugar. Since the stuff is just 37.5 proof, you’ll get a lot of extra carbs and calories getting a glow. You can lose the sugar, at least, by combining a shot each of Irish whiskey, cream or half-and-half, and sugar-free Irish Cream syrup (Da Vinci makes a good one.)
- Your best bet for mixers include club soda and sparkling water, diet soda, fresh lime and lemon juice, and tomato juice – most bars will have these. If you’re mixing drinks at home, you can add sugar-free lemonade, low-sugar cranberry juice cocktail, diet tonic water, and Splenda.
- If you like “alco-pops” – hard lemonade, coolers, and the like – look for the sugar-free versions, please. Regular hard lemonade runs about 260 calories and 36 grams of carb – scary. Smirnoff Ice has 228 calories and 23 grams of carbs. You might as well suck down soda pop with booze in it – in fact, you pretty much are.
- Surely you know that dry wine is among the healthiest alcoholic beverages. A 6-ounce glass of dry red or white wine (my sister-in-law, who has long tended bar at a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs assures me that’s the standard “pour”) will have about 150 calories and 4-5 grams of carbohydrate.
- Champagne is the traditional New Years tipple, and it’s a good choice, especially if the label says “brut” or “extra brut” – these are the driest champagnes. 6 ounces will have about 138 calories and about 4.5 carbs.
- Beer varies a lot in calorie and carb content. Be aware that a lot of American-made dark beers and “red” beers have added sugar in the form of caramel coloring. Light beers really are your best choice, though I admit they’re not as flavorful as “real” beer. My vote for best beer for less than 100 calories and 5 grams of carb is Amstel Light.
The Cosmopolitan has been the “it” cocktail for a few years now, but the original version, made with vodka, sweetened lime juice, triple sec, and cranberry juice cocktail, has 19 grams of sugar. Ouch! So here’s my version – gosh, this job is rough! – with all the same fruit flavors, but far less sugar, and 62 fewer calories, to boot. The recipe makes two, for the simple reason that it’s easy to do with a 1-ounce shot glass.Print
City Lights Low-Carb Cosmo Recipe
The Cosmopolitan has been the “it” cocktail for a few years now, but the original version, made with vodka, sweetened lime juice, triple sec, and cranberry juice cocktail, has 19 grams of sugar. Ouch! So here’s my version – gosh, this job is rough! – with all the same fruit flavors, but far less sugar, and 62 fewer calories, to boot.
3 ounces vodka
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce cranberry juice, low calorie
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 –3 teaspoons Splenda (depending on how sweet you like your drink.)
2 wedges lime
Combine everything but the lime wedges in a cocktail shaker; add ice, shake, and strain into martini glasses. Garnish each glass with a lime wedge, and serve.
The recipe makes two, for the simple reason that it’s easy to do with a 1-ounce shot glass.
- Serving Size: 3 oz.
- Calories: 112
- Fat: trace
- Carbohydrates: 3g
- Protein: trace
Keywords: Low-Carb, Alcohol, Vodka
2 servings, each with 112 Calories; trace Fat, trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate.
© 2009 by Dana Carpender. Used by kind permission of the tipsy author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.