Yes, most alcoholic beverages are essentially carbohydrate in liquid form. And yes, since your carbs are so limited on the keto diet, you’re better off choosing carbs that are bundled with good-for-you nutrients. (Think whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables—all of which are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease-fighting compounds.)
But hello, we’re realists: Sometimes you want, deserve, or just need a drink. So what are your best options?
It can be tricky to figure out how many carbs alcoholic beverages contain because they aren’t required to come labeled with nutrition facts. Below we’ve founded up a few of the most keto-friendly drinks, plus a few you should definitely skip (sorry, sake fans).
First though, we want to clear up some confusion about booze and keto that’s been spreading on the Interwebs. You may have read somewhere that your body produces ketones as it breaks down alcohol (which in theory at least, sounds like a good thing). Not so, though. “There’s nothing magical about alcohol enhancing ketogenesis long-term,” says sports nutritionist Chris Mohr, PhD, RD. “The general metabolism of alcohol as a whole falls outside of the ketogenic metabolic pathways.”
Don’t be fooled by the rumor. If you’re going to enjoy a cocktail, do it because it adds a little balance to your day, and diet—everything in moderation, right?
The best (and worst) alcohol for the keto diet
No matter what proof (80 through 100), gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey all have 0 grams of carbohydrate in a jigger (or 1.5 ounces). Have your drink neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of plain soda water. And it’s best to pour your own rather than cracking open one of those pre-made spiked seltzers; one can deliver anywhere from 1 to 5 grams carbohydrate.
If you’re craving a glass of wine, budget for it, and keep the pour size in mind. A glass of white wine ranges from 3 to 6 grams of carbohydrate per five ounces. (The sweeter whites—think riesling versus chardonnay—typically have more carbohydrates.) At home, you’re likely to pour more than five ounces, especially if you have larger wine glasses. And a standard restaurant pour is six ounces. Red wine has a tighter range of carbohydrates, at 3 to 4 grams per 5-ounce pour, with little variation between varieties.
Skip beer: It’s essentially bread in a bottle. A can of beer has around 12 grams of carbs. Though if you must have a beer, seek out a light beer, which comes in at around half that carb load per can.
Two other no-nos: mixers (they’re all pretty much sugar-laden) and sake. A 6-ounce pour is fairly common for sake, and it delivers nearly 9 grams of carbohydrate.
An unexpected perk of going keto
In any trendy diet, there are always nuggets of wisdom buried somewhere—and keto is no exception. Because it involves such a tight carb budget, the diet doesn’t leave much room for regular alcohol consumption. And when you do imbibe, quantity is limited, so you’re likely to stay within the recommended limit. (That’s one drink per day for women, and two for men.) Considering that more and more research suggests moderate drinking may be more detrimental to our health than experts previously thought, the keto diet’s booze restrictions could be a really good thing in the long run.