The 13 Worst Alcoholic Drinks Sure to Derail Your Diet

 by Jody Braverman

Enjoying a drink with friends is a relaxing way to unwind. And in moderation, drinking alcohol may be be good for you. In fact, some research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption is good for the heart and may help us live longer.


Enjoying a drink with friends is a relaxing way to unwind. And in moderation, drinking alcohol may be be good for you. In fact, some research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption is good for the heart and may help us live longer. Moderate alcohol intake means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. Regularly drinking more than this can have negative effects on your health, including high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and some types of cancers. It also matters what you drink! Many cocktails are loaded with added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Read on to see our list of the worst alcoholic drinks so you know which ones to avoid the next time you're out.

1. Margarita

Depending on how a margarita is made, it is very likely to contain sugar. The consumption of too much sugar has been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, sugar should be limited to about eight percent of our daily calorie intake; that's six teaspoons a day (100 calories) for women and nine teaspoons a day (150 calories) for men. "Most bars use a pre-made commercial sour mix in drinks like margaritas," says mixologist Chris Milligan, aka "The Santa Fe Barman." "These contain a lot of sugar. A margarita will typically run upwards of 400 calories per drink, tasty though they may be." Drink just two of these sugar bombs and you're well on your way to meeting your daily total caloric needs. Milligan suggests skipping the margarita unless it's made simply with fresh lime juice, which lowers the calorie count considerably.

Related: How to Make a Skinny Margarita on the Rocks

2. Long Island Iced Tea

Don't let the refreshing name fool you. Long Island Iced Tea will derail your diet faster than you can hail a taxi. (Which you should, after having one of these booze-heavy cocktails.) Made with everything but the kitchen sink -- rum, gin, vodka, tequila, triple sec, sour mix, cola – a Long Island Iced Tea can have more calories than an entire meal. The main factor is the size of the drink, which at 12 ounces is larger than most cocktails in order to accommodate all those ingredients. "I recommend to people, if they're going to keep alcohol in their diet, it's really important to be mindful of the portions," says registered dietitian and nutritionist Elisa Zied, author of "Younger Next Week." Ask for a half-serving and diet soda, and look for bartenders serving fresh ingredients instead of sour mix.

Related: 7 Drinks That Won't Derail Your Diet

3. White Russian

A round of White Russians really brings any group viewing "The Big Lebowski" together, but The Dude's favorite beverage does not abide as far as diets are concerned. Made with vodka, Kahlua and cream, a six-ounce White Russian packs about 500 calories and more than an entire day's allowance of saturated fat. "Liqueurs like Kahlua typically don't have a lot of alcohol, and they do have a lot of sugar," Milligan says. Too much added sugar is associated with weight gain, as well as chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Milligan says you can use two-percent milk to save some calories, but the drink won't be as creamy.

Related: Sign Up to Receive the FREE LIVESTRONG.COM Weekly Health and Fitness Newsletter

4. Slush Cocktails

You probably won't find a slush machine at your favorite craft cocktail bar, but you will find them at many chain restaurants. Milligan recommends avoiding them. "There is no way to know what's in that machine," he says. But the one thing you can count on is sugar. He says that even frozen drinks made in a blender are usually loaded with sugar to keep them from tasting like water. The best option is to ask for a mixed drink over crushed ice, which will give it a texture similar to that of a frozen drink.

Related: What REALLY Happens When You Drink

5. Irish Coffee

If you're looking to warm up on a cold winter's night, try flannel pajamas instead of an Irish coffee – the pajamas are much better for your waistline! Made with whipped heavy cream, Irish whiskey and sugar, one serving of Irish Coffee may pack more than 300 calories. There's also the problem of drinking caffeine in the evening, when most people are consuming alcohol. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers found that consuming caffeine within six hours of bedtime can significantly disrupt your sleep. If you must have an Irish coffee, use decaf coffee and substitute reduced-fat milk for cream to cut down on calories and avoid lost sleep.

Related: What's REALLY Inside a Starbucks Blended Caramel Frappuccino?

6. Pina Colada

The piña colada can deliver more than 600 calories – that's more calories than a Big Mac! The problem with getting that many calories in your diet from a single drink is that it provides few, if any, beneficial nutrients to go along with those calories. "Alcohol a lot of times will displace other calories in the diet," says Zied. "It will displace healthful foods that are loaded with nutrients." Zied also cautions that consuming too much alcohol can cause problems with metabolism and the absorption of nutrients.

Related: Hawaii Dreaming Green Smoothie Recipe

7. Eggnog

Eggnog, a perennial Christmas favorite, should be limited to a once-a-year treat. Made with sugar, egg yolk, milk, heavy cream and brandy, rum or bourbon – just one of these festive drinks will increase your saturated fat, cholesterol and calorie intake significantly. Before you even add spirits, some versions pack more than 400 calories per cup. According to registered dietician Molly Kimball of the Times-Picayune, one cup of eggnog can have the equivalent of 15 packets of sugar and exceed the saturated fat in a Big Mac. Swap the heavy cream for skim milk and use a natural sugar alternative, such as stevia, to shave calories.

Related: 9 Holiday Drinks Under 200 Calories

8. Mai Tai

Drinking one mai tai may take you away to a tropical island, but it won't help you look your best in a bikini once you get there. Although recipes vary widely, a mai tai usually consists of different types of rum – either light, dark, spiced or coconut – liqueur, pineapple juice and orange juice. Milligan says you should be wary of bars that use ready-to-drink mixes (in bartender-speak, RTDs) because these can contain more sugar than those made with spirits and juices. "It's too much added sugar – that's the problem," says Zeid. "If you're having too much added sugar, it's crowding out nutrient-rich foods that could be in your diet."

Related: What REALLY Happens When You Drink

9. Brandy Alexander

One three-ounce brandy Alexander – a decadent drink made with brandy, dark creme de cacao, heavy cream and grated nutmeg – contains about 300 calories and seven grams of saturated fat. According to Milligan, many bars serve cocktails that are double that size. To put this in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends getting no more than seven percent of your daily calories from saturated fat – about 16 grams per day on a typical 2,000-calorie diet. One six-ounce brandy Alexander could supply almost your entire daily limit. For a skinnier drink, substitute two-percent milk for heavy cream. The finished product will be thinner but better for you.

Related: 14 Healthy Cocktail Recipes

10. Amaretto Sour

Any drink made with sour mix should be avoided as they typically include tons of sugars, preservatives and color additives. Add that to an already syrupy sweet liqueur like amaretto and you've got a dessert, not a beverage. A six-ounce amaretto sour can have more than 400 calories. If you're watching your weight, this could definitely stall your efforts. If you can't abstain, be sure to have only one and make it with fresh lime juice instead of sour mix and a dash of simple syrup, honey or agave for sweetness.

Related: 10 Things NEVER to Say to Someone Who Isn't Drinking

11. Beer

If you're a beer drinker, you might be surprised to see your favorite quaff on this list. Beer isn't as bad as all those sugary cocktails, right? Well, it depends on the beer. Beers can vary by hundreds of calories, for instance MGD 64 and Budweiser Select 55 are some of the lowest calorie beers, with 64 and 55 calories per bottle, respectively. Other beers, however, can total more than 300 to 400 calories a serving. And the worst offenders aren't obvious: an India pale ale, for example, typically has more calories than a Guinness. If you want to have more than one beer and keep it healthy, choose a brew with a low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) percentage; more alcohol means more calories.

Related: 18 Healthy Beers to Enjoy

12. Energy Drinks and Alcohol

As if the wired feeling you get from caffeine-rich energy drinks isn't bad enough, some popular libations call for mixing in alcohol. That's a stimulant (caffeine) mixed with a depressant (alcohol), all in one sugar-laden package destined to leave you mentally and physically drained. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Northern Kentucky and the University of Maryland found that drinking alcohol mixed with an energy drink is worse for you than drinking alcohol alone – and that the combination increases the risks associated with alcohol intake.

Related: Are Energy Drinks Dangerous to Your Health?

13. Daiquiri

A traditional daiquiri is a chilled mixture of rum, a little lime juice and a dash of simple syrup served in a cocktail glass. Modern manifestations – especially ready-to-drink mixes – can be much richer in sugar, some of it in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Then there's the colorful, frosty concoction that comes out of what looks like a slush machine behind the bar. The latter, Milligan says, is a sugar-heavy and calorie-laden abomination. For both aesthetic and dietary reasons, Milligan recommends sticking to the traditional recipe and using fresh ingredients whenever possible.

Related: Sign Up to Receive the FREE LIVESTRONG.COM Weekly Health and Fitness Newsletter

Everything in Moderation

Moderate alcohol intake can fit into a healthy lifestyle, Zeid says. "If people can be responsible with drinking, I don't think it's going to harm your health, unless you're on certain medications for a condition, if you have depression or emotional problems, or if you have a family history of alcoholism," she says. But if you're trying to lose weight, keep in mind that most alcoholic beverages are just empty calories. Your best bet is to have a conversation with your doctor about how to include alcohol in your lifestyle in a healthy way.

Related: How to Drink Kava (a Super-Chill Alternative to Alcohol)

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What Do YOU Think?

Do you drink alcohol or abstain? What's your favorite drink? Were you surprised by any of the drinks on the list? Are there any other really bad ones that we missed? If you drink, how do you keep your intake moderate? Tell us your thoughts and share your favorite "skinny" cocktail or drink of choice.

Related: 9 Scary Side Effects of Social Drinking


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