Can I drink alcohol on a diet

Today is a very Spring-like day. It’s the kind of day that makes you think about summer and enjoying adult beverages.

As you think about that cold one, or the frosty glass rimmed in salt or whatever your pleasure you might all of a sudden come up short. The thought, “oh no, I’m on a diet,” could ruin your daydream.

Alcohol is vaguely associated with weight gain – think beer belly – but it can create major challenges when trying to lose weight. The problem is two-fold:

  1. There are the calories to consider, and some drinks have considerable calories.
  2. There is the higher likelihood of mindless eatingwhich is counterproductive to losing weight.

As far as beverages go, alcohol (without the addition of mixers or other ingredients) are lower calorie beverages compared to what is considered “healthier” things to drink. Smoothies, for example, can be packed with an assortment of nutrients, but they can also be high in calories from both fat and sugar.

Few but some weight loss plans do not allow any alcohol consumption. Some low carb diets permit spirits without mixers, and some moderately low carb diets allow a glass or so daily or wine or certain beer.

When alcohol is included in your diet, considerations need to be made for the calories. Essentially consuming alcohol and its calories replaces calories from other sources. The sources are needed to provide essential nutrients in a calorie-reduced diet. Alcohol is like eating treats on a diet. A few are okay but too many jeopardize the nutritional quality of your weight loss plan.

Alcohol and Appetite 

The idea that drinking alcohol stimulates appetite and food intake is a common belief. While there is a limited amount of research in this area, what is available supports this belief.

Small studies done mostly in healthy weight men have found that a moderate amount of alcohol (approximately two drinks) before or during a meal leads to higher ratings of hunger and food intake compared to times when a non-alcoholic beverage is consumed.

These studies, however, do not include women nor do they investigate how regular alcohol consumption affects food intake and weight over the long term.

If not exactly an appetite stimulant, it does help some people shed their inhibitions and behave in ways they later regret. A drink or two may lead to more mindless eating especially if food is being served with the drinks.

If the bowl of pretzel nuggets were out and you hadn’t been drinking beer it may be easier to avoid eating them. When drinking you get a false sense of well-being that can cloud your thoughts of whether you really want some pretzel nuggets and how many you can eat without overdoing it. Then the salty carbs make you thirsty and you order another beer and the pattern may be repeated multiple times.

Beer and other alcoholic beverages can fit nicely into a weight loss program if some simple guidelines are applied to your sipping.

Separate your drinks into 3 categories: A, B, and C. 

drinks are the easiest to drink without a lot of preplanning.

  • Sangria
  • The classic martini
  • Quality liquors + mixers such as diet soda, diet tonic, or sparkling water or plain water
  • light beer
  • wine – red or white

drinks require some thought – what or how much have I already eaten today/ what more did I want to eat today?

  • The margarita
  • The mojito
  • The Bloody Mary

drinks need planning or if you didn’t plan, then treat them like a rich dessert loaded with fat and calories! – not much and very infrequently!

  • The Long Island iced tea
  • The mudslide
  • The chocotini (aka the chocolate martini)

One thing can lead to another, especially when alcohol is involved. Your plan to have one Margarita may not have included fatty chips and dips.

Yes, you can drink and lose weight. If you are a moderate drinker it’s better to drink during the weight loss process than to abstain. Knowing how to manage your alcohol (and its side effects such as poor decision making or loss of inhibitions) without setting back or ruining your progress is a skill that will help you later on when you want to maintain your weight goal.

If maintaining a lower weight is your goal, and a glass of wine or a cold beer is one of life’s pleasures, do so responsibly and that includes knowing how much to drink to avoid causing problems with your weight. I’m not making a case to drink and there are plenty of reasons for not drinking. I’m saying if responsible drinking is part of your life and it gives you pleasure you need to make it compatible with your weight-related goals.




Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.