A glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail when out with friends can dulgence can undermine otherwise healthy eating habits.

If you’re watching your calories, it can be confusing to choose the best option: Should you stick to a glass of wine? Have a light beer? Or try a spiked seltzer or seemingly healthy fancy cocktail?

Nutritionist Rachel Beller, MS, RDN, explains how you can enjoy a drink without derailing your diet and packing on the pounds.


Whether you choose white, red, or rose, a 5-ounce glass of wine contains about 100 to 130 calories. Watch out for port wines or sweet dessert wines, which can contain up to 300 calories in the same serving.

Best choice: Go red. All wine is produced by crushing and fermenting grapes. To produce red wine, crushed red grapes are fermented with the skin, seeds, and stems intact. For white wine, the stems, seeds, and skins are removed before fermentation. Because many of the healthful compounds are found in the grape skin, red wine contains more of the beneficial plant compounds found in those skins, such as resveratrol. Resveratrol contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce heart disease risk, increase HDL “good” cholesterol levels, and slow age-related mental decline.


Whether it is a pale ale, a lager, a stout, or other type, beer generally contains about 150 calories in a 12-ounce can or bottle. In a bar or restaurant, a pour may be a larger 16-ounce pint.

Best choice: If what really quenches your thirst on a hot day is a nice cold beer, consider choosing a light beer. The calories in a 12-ounce serving typically range from about 50 to 100 calories. Squeeze in a little lime, lemon, or orange for a small shot of vitamin C.

Hard seltzer

These popular canned drinks, such as Truly and White Claw, are made with brewed cane sugar and/or malted rice, with added soda water and flavorings. A typical 12-ounce can contains about 100 calories. Some hard seltzers contain real fruit juice, but it is not enough for any nutritional benefit.

Best choice: If you want to enjoy this fruity option, feel free to choose your favorite flavored hard seltzer, but don’t overdo it. They are easy to overdrink.


A 1.5 ounce (shot glass) serving of gin, rum, vodka, tequila, or whiskey is 100 calories. The mixers you choose, however, can quickly add up. For instance, 4 ounces of orange juice will add nearly 60 calories, and many sodas, such as Coke or Sprite, have about 45 to 50 calories in the same amount. A mojito or margarita on the rocks can be as low as 150 calories, but a pina colada, daiquiri, or other frozen drink can pack as many as 500 calories into one drink.

Best choice: If you crave a cocktail, pick no-calorie mixers such as fruit-flavored sparkling water, club soda, or plain sparkling water.

To add some flavor, squeeze in a little lime or lemon. To pack a nutritional punch, try a splash of pomegranate juice, which adds flavor plus the cancer-fighting compound ellagic acid, with few calories. Or consider a teaspoon of 100 percent ginger juice, which contains anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties.

Responsible drinking

The extra calories in alcoholic drinks can really add up. Adding 100 calories a day could potentially result in weight gain of 10 pounds a year. Further, alcohol can increase hunger and lower inhibitions and judgment, resulting in grabbing for more snacks, rich hors d’oeuvres, extra pizza, or other unhealthful choices.

Even when making low-calorie choices, it’s important to limit overall alcohol consumption to protect your health. Heavy drinking has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems, cancer, a weakened immune system, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and alcohol-use disorders.To avoid overindulgence, think of your drink as a treat to be enjoyed occasionally.

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