Weight Management: Alcohol and Calories

You might be doing just the right things when it comes to healthy eating: paying attention to your hunger signals and triggers, eating healthy foods, and controlling portions. If you're still struggling at the scale, alcohol might be the reason.

A few glasses of wine or a creamy cocktail at a party can have the same calories as a slice of cake, a milkshake, or even a fast-food burger. And since alcohol doesn't have any nutrients, it doesn't add anything to your body but calories. That can turn a "happy hour" into some not-so-happy extra weight.

What's in a drink?

If you're trying to maintain your weight or even lose some, it might be worth rethinking your drinking. And you might end up making some different decisions about what you drink, or if you drink at all.

Beer, wine, and hard liquor all contain alcohol. The higher the alcohol content, the higher the calories.

The table shows standard drink amounts and calories for each. You can use it to help you decide how alcohol fits into your plan. Maybe you skip your morning mocha because you know you're going out with friends after work for drinks. Or you skip the alcohol altogether and order a sparkling water instead. It's your choice.

Calories in standard alcoholic drinks

The following drinks contain equal amounts of alcohol and are often referred to as a drink or a standard drink:

  • One mixed drink containing 1.5 fl oz of 80-proof hard liquor, such as gin, whiskey, or rum.
    • Martini: 124 calories
    • Manhattan: 164
    • Margarita (rocks): 168
    • Piña colada: 490
    • Margarita (frozen): 500
  • One 5 fl oz glass of wine
    • Sparkling wine: 84
    • White wine: 121
    • Red wine: 125
  • One 12 fl oz bottle of beer
    • Light beer: 103
    • Regular beer: 153
    • Craft beer: 200 or more

It's up to you

Now think about your weight management goal. Maybe it's to lose a few pounds, or to keep your weight the same. How did your journey begin, and where are you now? Can you still see where you want to be?

Reconnecting with that vision, and your goal, might help you decide if there are things you want to do differently when it comes to drinking.

For example, you could take a break from alcohol for a week, just to see how it feels—and to see if it has an impact on your weight. Maybe you try ordering a light beer instead of a craft beer. Or you swap those "happy hour" calories for something else instead.

Use the table below to write down your ideas. Come up with one or two small steps that will get you a little closer to your long-term weight goal. Pick something that appeals to you. Start small, and think about when you can start.

Small steps I can take

My long-term weight goal is:

This is important to me because:

Here's one thing I can do to meet my goal:

This will help me by:

When I'll start doing this: