If you’ve been on a keto diet (high-fat, low-carb diet) for a while, you know that the lifestyle includes an abundance of delicious, decadent, and downright amazing food! (Try awesome recipes here.) But what about alcoholic drinks? Can you drink sangria, low-carb beers, light beer, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, or lower carb or sugar-free mixed drinks like margaritas?
The short answer is yes. There are such things as lower-carb, keto-friendly drinks, some of which include hard alcohol and even wine.
Plainly put, alcohol is very much like sweets on the ketogenic diet; in moderation and within your macros, you should be able to enjoy it without negatively affecting your ketone levels or weight loss. If you choose to introduce alcohol to your keto diet, go slow; your alcohol tolerance may be different while on the keto diet and you may experience different effects of alcohol (i.e. get drunk quicker and experience a worse hangover). Also, drinking lets your guard down and may inspire you to overeat, which could adversely affect your fat-burning status. Most adults can consume one to three alcoholic beverages per week without hindering ketosis and/or weight loss.
But even then, “moderation” is relative. Depending on the alcohol and the mixer, drinks have varying levels of calories and carbs (sugars), and every body reacts to alcohol differently. Your best bet is to steer toward the keto-friendly alcohols listed below and remember to choose booze and mixers that won’t kick you out of ketosis.
Then, if you want to truly know your limits for enjoying beer, wine, or spirits and staying in ketosis, you’ll need to consume the libation in question and test your ketones and glucose and see how they react.
To do this, test your ketones and blood glucose before one glass of wine or spirits, then 30 minutes after, and again 3 hours after you drink the entire beverage to see if your glucose spikes or your ketones drop and don’t return to pre-beverage levels. If all goes well, try another day with two glasses of the same beverage and see where that gets you. Just remember that alcohol has calories too and should be factored into your macros as you construct your keto meal plan for the day or week.
Most Keto-Friendly Hard Alcohols
The following non-flavored hard liquors are all zero carbs (and gluten-free!), which means they are totally keto-friendly. But before you start mixing martinis with abandon, remember that 0 grams of carbs does not equal 0 calories! (A one-ounce serving of the spirits listed below is about 65 calories, and these are empty calories to boot.)
If you’re considering alcohol consumption and want to manage your blood sugar and ketones, calculate your macros to account for your planned martini (or two); Ruled.Me shares cheat sheets on their website that give you a great idea of the macro breakdown of many of your favorite adult beverages so you aren’t stuck guessing. You can also find a recipe for Keto Simple Syrup and delicious cocktails at Keto-Mojo.com.
- Some brandies
If you’re at all familiar with the ketogenic diet, we probably don’t need to tell you that the sweet and sour mix, tonic water, most fruit juice, and other high-carb drinks are off the mixer menu. But there are mixers that support your new lifestyle as well as cocktail creativity! We recommend skipping most of the sugar-free mixers and sodas because they can contain additives and sugar alternatives that can kick you out of ketosis and aren’t great for you. Instead, try any of the following:
- Seltzer water, soda water, club soda, or sparkling water
- Zevia (diet soda; they make so many flavors, they’re sweetened with stevia, and they have zero net carbs)
- Fresh lemon or lime juice (the juice of either has about 11 calories and 4g net carbs)
- Berries (keep an eye on the calories and carbs)
- Homemade Keto Simple Syrup (In a ramekin or other small bowl, combine 2 Tbsps granular Swerve or Lakanto 1:1 Sweetener and 2 tablespoons boiling water and stir until dissolved. Stir in 1 Tbsp lemon juice; get a delicious recipe that uses it here)
Words of Wine Wisdom
Who doesn’t love to relax over a nice glass of wine? It’s even more enjoyable when you can clink glasses knowing you’re going to stay in ketosis.
While sweet wines (wines with a lot of added grams of sugar–hello white zinfandel and dessert wines like moscato!) are high-carb due to their sugar content, low-carb wines with no added sugar (aka dry wines) have only 0 to 1 carb per glass! On average, you’ll throw back 2 to 4 grams of net carbs and 90 to 120 calories per 5-ounce pour.
Unfortunately, wine labels don’t include nutritional information, so it can be tricky to figure out which wines are lower in carbs. But there is one trick that helps: look for lower alcohol wines under 13 percent alcohol; there are many that will appeal to wine lovers, and all wine labels are required to state the alcohol percentage!
In general, the lower the alcohol, the lower the carb content and sugar. Also, white wines tend to have lower alcohol content than red wines, but be careful with wines like rieslings and certain sparkling wines, as they can taste dry, but contain residual sugar. Look for extra dry white wines and dry red wines. You can also consider making wine coolers by mixing a dry white wine with one of the carbonated keto-friendly mixers above.
The Best Wine Choices
- Loire, France: sancerre, pouilly fumé (both sauvignon blanc), muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne)
- Burgundy, France: chablis, dry Champagne (brut, brut nature); dry riesling from Alsace, Australia, or Rheingau (Germany)
- Italy: pinot grigio, soave
- Austria/Germany: riesling (look for the terms Trocken/selections for the dryest styles; if testing shows you’re sensitive to carbs/sugars, this one may not be best for you)
- Spain: albarino
- Burgundy, France: pinot noir; beaujolais: gamay – cru Beaujolais
- Loire,France: chinon (cabernet franc)
- Italy: chianti (sangiovese), barolo (nebbiolo)
- California: Sonoma and North Coast pinot noir
- Provence, France
- Napa Valley, California (check alcohol levels)
Keto-Friendly Beer—Hard to Find But Not Impossible
There’s no such thing as a carb-free beer. Even low carb beers will cost you 2 to 5 grams of net carbs per bottle (Michelob Ultra is 2.4 carbs). We recommend you limit the times you choose to crack a cold one while on a keto diet.
The Final Word
Drinking alcohol while on a keto diet is acceptable provided you stick with low-carb alcohol as listed above, watch the carb count of what you drink, watch out for unwanted side effects, and don’t overdo it. Mindful consumption will help you continue to stay in ketosis, burn fat for fuel, and experience the wonderful health benefits of a healthy keto diet! When in doubt about what to consume on a keto diet, ask nutritionists or dietitians. They can help you figure it out.