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, RD, 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.
Calories in alcohol: They add up fast
If you start having two 5-ounce pours 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.
How to order the lowest calorie alcoholic drinks
Some of the key points to remember when ordering is to ask for no syrups, opt for fresh juices, 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.
1. Vodka soda with lemon
Calorie count: 96
If you’re looking for the lowest calorie alcohol, stay away from tonic water. “It adds about 80 calories and 21 grams of sugar” to your cocktail, Ansari says. Instead, choose soda water or seltzer.
“Choosing to mix a serving of vodka with soda water, which is still fizzy but contains no calories, is much better,” she explains. To boost the flavor without adding calories, squeeze some fresh lemon juice for a refreshing kick.
Since alcohol tends to dehydrate you, using soda water is a bonus. “The great thing about soda water other than it not adding calories is that it keeps you hydrated,” Ansari says.
Whenever you’re imbibing, be sure to also take sips of water in between drinks.