Most foods and drinks naturally come with calories. That’s not always a bad thing! Our bodies need calories to fuel our everyday lives. But it’s better when those calories come with the good stuff: vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. When we take in calories that don’t give us any nutrients, we’re not getting a very good bang for our nutritional buck.
Alcohol is a big source of calories. Here’s a quick comparison to show you the calories in common alcoholic drinks vs. the calories in common sweets and treats.
- 1 Light Beer (12 oz) = 100 calories, or 20 M&M’s candies
- 5 Light Beers (12 oz) = 500 calories, or one McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese
- 1 Lager (12 oz) = 180 calories, or 18 regular potato chips
- 5 Lagers (12 oz) = 900 calories, or 5 glazed donuts
- 1 Glass of Wine (6 oz) = 125 calories, or 1¼ cups of green grapes
- 1 Bottle of Wine (26 oz) = 630 calories, or a whole lunch portion of spaghetti with meat sauce at the Olive Garden
- 1 Margarita (10 oz) = 465 calories, or about 7 snack size Kit Kat bars
- 5 Margaritas (10 oz) = 2,325 calories, or 12 Subway Chocolate Chip Cookies
Long Island Iced Tea
- 1 Long Island (8 oz) = 275 calories, or 5 small apples
- 5 Long Islands (8 oz) = 1,375 calories, or a Big Mac with large fries and 8 Chicken McNuggets
Vodka with Club/Diet Soda
- 1 Vodka with Club/Diet Soda (1.5 oz vodka) = 90 calories, or 1 small banana
- 5 Vodkas with Club/Diet Soda (1.5 oz vodka) = 450 calories, or 2 medium slices of cheese pizza
Rum and Cola
- 1 Rum and Cola (1.5 oz rum and 4 oz cola) = 145 calories, or 1.5 oz of cheese
- 5 Rums and Cola (1.5 oz rum and 4 oz cola) = 725 calories, or a slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory
Have Your Drink and Lose Weight, Too
Now that you know how alcohol measures up to food, let’s look at real-life strategies to stay on track while enjoying alcohol as part of your healthy lifestyle.
- Make Compromises: When enjoying alcohol at a meal or social event with food, it’s best to make simple trade-offs to keep your calories in check for that meal. For instance, make restaurant entrées the star of the show, and invite just one guest star: an appetizer, a drink, or a dessert. Go with the one you love and skip the ones you just like.
- Go Slow and Steady: Practice mindful drinking. Slow your pace and savor each sip. The slower you drink, the longer you can enjoy that beverage. Try having a glass of water between alcoholic drinks so you can stay hydrated ― and satisfied.
- Lighten It Up: Save on calories by choosing light beer instead of regular. Or enjoy liquor with a no-calorie mixer like seltzer or diet soda. That will help you keep each drink to 100 calories or less.
- Enjoy the Party: Alcohol doesn’t have to be part of social events to make them fun. Nurse a mocktail and revel in the company of those around you. You can feel proud and in charge of your choices with no need to nurse a hangover the next morning.
- Create a Plan: Select an idea above or add your own to map out a plan before you attend a party, go to a bar or restaurant, or unwind with a drink at home. Take a few seconds to figure out how you’ll stay on track without taking in too many calories. Tell yourself, “I’ll alternate my drinks with water,” “two beers is my limit tonight,” “I’ll have a club soda with lime instead of a cocktail,” or something else that works for you!