Here's to your waist: Best and worst cocktails for dieters

CocktailsDonna Day/Photolibrary/Getty Images / Today

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
By Amy Capetta

While many mixers, liqueurs and spirits can contain hidden (and maybe not-so-hidden) calories, not every liquid behind the bar needs placement on your forbidden list, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D., author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear--with Fiber!

“Out at a restaurant, some dieters may forego an innocent 100-calorie glass of wine and instead dip their bread in olive oil, which can set them back up to 400 calories,” she states. “As a dietician—and as someone who enjoys socializing over cocktails—I believe you can and should be able to drink moderately, even if you are trying to lose weight.” And if social drinking is a part of your lifestyle, Zuckerbrot believes that abstaining from alcohol can make you feel as if you’re missing something. “And feeling deprived can set you back far more than a glass of wine ever could!”

Here, she highlights the five drinks to sip and the five drinks to skip.

Best Cocktails:

Any Basic Mixed Drink: Gin & Tonic, Vodka Soda…

Why: “Because when you drink a 1-ounce pour of most liquors and top them off with a calorie-free mixer, you end up with a drink that’s pretty low in calories, no matter the combination.” Just be sure to ask the bartender for a 1-ounce shot of the spirit since many establishments pour 1.5 ounces per cocktail.

Calorie Count: 65 calories per 8-ounce glass

White Wine Spritzer

Why: “The concept of the spritzer is simple—white wine mixed with equal proportions club soda. And while some may think it’s an atrocity to mix a nice Pinot Grigio with anything, it’s your body. And if you prefer a spritzer to a beer gut, it’s your prerogative.”

Calorie Count: 50 calories per 5-ounce glass 


Why: Once again, it’s about the half and half combo. “Don’t even worry about which brand of champagne. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter. If it makes you happy to buy the expensive stuff, by all means, knock yourself out!”

Calorie Count: 75 calories per 4-ounce glass 

Kahlua and Coffee

Why: “The Starbucks coffee craze has gotten people thinking up crazy calorie-filled concoctions. But luckily, one of the old standbys of classic cocktails can fulfill your alcohol and caffeine needs with substantially less calories. Even the best-brewed coffee has zero calories! And with such a light drink, you can afford to add a bit of skim milk to make it creamy.”

Calorie Count: 91 calories per 6 ounces                            


Why: Because this cocktail is mostly straight liquor shaken with ice and with a splash of vermouth. “The taste can be strong for someone who likes sweeter drinks, and if that’s you, order your martini made with infused liquor, like vanilla-flavored vodka or spicy pepper-infused liquors, that adds flavor without calories.”

Calorie Count: 160 calories per 2.5-ounce glass (pretty strong drink so it’s not like you need many of these).            

Worst Cocktails:



Why: Blame it on the Triple Sec, which can add about 300 calories per drink, and the 200+ calories that come from the margarita mix.

Calorie Count: 750 calories  

Instead Try: Tequila on the rocks with a splash of lime to save over 650 calories     

Long Island Iced Tea

Why: It’s the Triple Sec again, along with too many spirits in one drink (rum, gin, vodka and tequila).

Calorie Count: 750 calories

Instead Try: Rum mixed with Diet Coke, topped off with a slice of lime—“It will save you more than 600 calories!”  

Pina Colada

Why: Two words: Coconut cream. Two more words: pineapple juice. Both adding not only calories, but fat and sugar.

Calorie Count: 650 calories (and 90 grams of carbs!). Another way to look at it: about 55 calories per ounce.

Instead Try: Vanilla-flavored vodka mixed with Diet Coke or Sprite to save about 500 calories    

White Russian

Why: Heavy cream. “One drink has nearly one quarter of the calories an average person should consume in a day!”

Calorie Count: About 450 calories

Instead Try: A coffee-flavored liquor with iced coffee to save over 350 calories


Why: “It may not have as many calories as the other drinks on this list, but you’ll drink this one quicker—and find yourself ordering it again!”

Calorie Count: 150 calories

Instead Try: Vodka with diet cranberry juice

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.