The 5 Best and 5 Worst Alcoholic Drinks to Sip on the Keto Diet

Alcohol is known for being high in carbs, but some choices contain far more than others.

ketogenic diet is inherently very low in carbohydrates — specifically 20 to 25 net carbs, or 50 total carbs, per day.

Does that mean you need to say goodbye to your nightly wind-down glass of wine or happy-hour cocktail with coworkers? Not necessarily.

“You can drink alcohol on a keto diet,” says April Murray, RDN, the founder of Orange County Nutrition Coaching in Costa Mesa, California.

You’ll simply need to be more strategic with the type and number of beverages you reach for.

Because the amount of carbs varies so much between hard liquor, mixed drinks, beer, and wine, choosing the right one matters when it comes to keeping your body in ketosis, a state where you’re burning fat for your primary fuel rather than carbohydrates. “Alcohol can be keto-friendly, but too much can slow down your weight loss progress,” says Lauren Weiss, PhD, a keto nutritionist in La Jolla, California.

“When you’re on a low-carb, high-fat diet, your liver metabolism changes because glycogen stores in your body have been depleted. When you drink alcohol, your body may use the alcohol for energy instead of fat,” Dr. Weiss says. If that happens too often, it can stall your progress.

For general health guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults drink alcohol moderately. That’s defined as one standard drink per day for women and two standard drinks per day for men. A standard drink is equivalent to 12 ounces (oz) of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor.

If you’re drinking daily, you’ll need to stop that routine on keto. “While an occasional drink is okay, drinking daily may slow down the fat-burning process,” says Weiss. Alcohol, after all, is empty calories — and when it comes to maximizing your nutrition on a keto diet, alcohol should be limited.

Below, find the best and worst alcoholic drinks to reach for on keto, along with their total and net carb amounts. (As a refresher, net carbs isn’t an official nutrient, but it can be handy to count them on low-carb diets, per the Atkins website. That includes keto. Calculate net carbs by subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols from total carbs.)

The 5 Best and 5 Worst Alcoholic Drinks to Sip on the Keto Diet

5 Alcoholic Drinks You Can Have in Moderation on the Keto Diet

Dry White Wine

Varietals like sauvignon blanc, Italian pinot grigio, and pinot blanc are lower-carb options, says Weiss. “All of these contain around 1 gram (g) of carbs per oz, or less,” she says. One 5 oz glass of sauvignon blanc, for instance, has 3 g of net and total carbs, 0 g of fat, and 0.1 g of protein, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Dry Red Wine

Weiss recommends a cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, or merlot, which are drier varietals that offer fewer carbs per oz than sweeter red wines. One glass of cabernet sauvignon has 3.8 g of total and net carbs, 0 g of fat, and 0.1 g of protein. If you’re looking for a great brand, she likes Dry Farm Wines, a club that sources sugar-free and lower-alcohol wines from small farms.

Champagne or Prosecco

Start popping corks (responsibly). Champagne gets the go-ahead from Weiss because it has less than 1 g of carbs per oz. Go for brut (rather than “extra dry” or “sweet”), which has a lower amount of carbs. A standard 5 oz glass of a California sparkling wine called Korbel Brut has 2 g of total and net carbs, 0 g of fat, and 0 g of protein.

Hard Liquor

“If you are seeking a lower-carb alcoholic beverages, choosing a spirit over wine, beer, or cider will be a lower-carbohydrate option,” says Olivia Wagner, RDN, an integrative dietitian-nutritionist. “Overall, the quantity will determine the total carb load, so it’s important to keep that in mind,” she says.

Have 1 oz of your favorite hard liquor — vodka, tequila, rum, gin, or whiskey — and add a mixer like soda water or a flavored sparkling water (like LaCroix or Waterloo) for a drink with no calories, sugar, or carbohydrates. For reference, one shot of tequila has 0 g each of total carbs and net carbs, fat, and protein, for 97 calories.

Mojito

standard mojito — made from rum, lime juice, mint, sugar, and soda water — contains just 5 g of net carbs (5.51 g of total carbs, as well as 0 g fat and 0.2 g protein). It’ll account for a lot of your carb allotment, but it is possible to fit one in on a day when you really want a mixed drink.

You can do even better with a twist on the mojito, says Wagner. Leave out the sugar, and add rum or tequila to muddled mint, soda water, and top with a lime twist.

The 5 Worst Alcohol Choices on a Keto Diet

Beer

Sorry, but whether you like fancy IPAs, ales, or lagers, beer is out unless it’s brewed to be carb-free. (A 12 oz can of Bud Light Next, for example, contains 0 carbs. Compare that to a can of regular Bud Light, which has 6.6 g of total and net carbs.)

Considering that a can of regular beer (12 fluid oz) has 13 g of total and net carbs, 0 g of fat, and 1.7 g of protein, after one beer you’ll have to severely limit carbs for the rest of the day. “If you waste carbs on beer, you can’t have green veggies or berries,” she says. It’s just not a healthy way to use your carb allotment.

Vodka Tonic

Tonic water contains a ton of sugar. It’s often confused with soda water, which is just carbonated H2O, and has no carbs or calories. A vodka tonic has 15 g of total and net carbs (all from added sugar in the tonic water), 0 g of fat, and 0 g of protein.

Rum and Coke

Regular soda is not allowed on keto. A 12 oz can of Coca-Cola contains a whopping 39 g of carbs, and same goes for net carbs! Combine that with rum and your rum and cola packs 17.6 g of carbohydrates, 0 g protein, and 0.4 g fat. Many experts do not recommend consuming diet soda on the keto diet, but it is technically keto-compliant because it doesn’t contain carbohydrates. If you must have a Captain & Coke, order one with diet soda for 0.2 g of carbs, 0.1 g protein, and 0 g fat.

Mixed Drinks

Most mixed drinks are a combination of hard liquor plus sugar, fruit juice, or purees. A couple of examples? An old-fashioned (made with sugar, bitters, and whiskey) has 10.1 g of net carbs, 0.1 g of fat, and 0.3 g of protein. A margarita has 36 g of total and net carbs, 0.2 g of fat, and 0.2 g of protein.

Mimosa

Yes, it’s made with Champagne or prosecco, but it also has a hefty amount of orange juice, which means a lot of sugar. If you’re on a strict keto diet and aiming for 20 g of net carbs per day, this one drink will eat up more than half your carb budget. One mimosa has 11.3 g of net carbs (11.7 g of total carbs), 0.3 g of fat, and less than 1 g of protein.

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