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10 Least Healthy Alcoholic Drinks

Glasses of red wine and beer side by side

It’s a well-known fact that for most people, drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation is probably not going to cause any lasting health issues. But, excessive drinking and even drinking alcohol too fast can cause health issues like liver disease, cancer, heart disease, and injury from accidents. Excessive drinking, as described by the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), is anything over two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

There is a lot of information about the type of drinks that are less harmful and healthier than others. But let’s talk about those drinks you should avoid if you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle and possibly lose a few pounds along the way. 

The least healthy alcoholic drinks fall into two categories: (1) those that are the highest in alcohol content and (2) those drinks that are loaded with sugar. Keep reading for a list of 10 of the least healthy alcoholic drinks.

1. Sugary Mixed Drinks

Iced cranberry tea or cocktail with an orange slice in a mason jar

Alcoholic beverages loaded with sugar, such as Long Island Iced Tea, can contain as much as 260 to 500 calories in an eight-ounce drink, depending on the recipe. In fact, Long Island Iced Tea is considered the most unhealthy mixed drink for two reasons:

  • It contains five shots of alcohol in an eight-ounce glass, the equivalent of four or five beers in one drink.
  • At 262 calories with 23 grams of carbohydrates and 21 grams of sugars, it only takes one drink to blow your diet for the day completely.

A healthier version of sugary mixed drinks can be made using diet soda or seltzer water as a mixer rather than regular sugared soda. And, if Long Island Iced Tea happens to be your drink of choice, try Martha Stewart’s version, which uses less alcohol, less sugar, and natural tea instead of sugared soda as a mixer.

2. Frozen Mixed Drinks

Fancy frozen mixed drinks like pina coladas and frozen daiquires often contain as much as 280 calories in a five-ounce drink. And while they do contain fruit juice which should make them healthier drinks, they are loaded with sugar, especially if premade mixes are used.

As a result of the high sugar content, one or two of this type of mixed drink could really wreck your weight-loss plan.

If, however, you like those fancy frozen drinks, lower the calories by using all-natural ingredients, reducing the amount of alcohol content, and substituting a healthier alternative to sugar. Honey and brown sugar are two that come to mind.

3. Craft Beer

Craft beer, which is currently growing in popularity, contains added ingredients to improve flavor. But, those added ingredients also add calories and carbs. Plus, craft beer usually is higher in alcohol content which adds even more calories.

Most regular mass-produced beer has between 3% and 5% alcohol content. Craft beer, which is made in small batches, tends to contain at least 7% alcohol.

A healthier alternative to craft beer would be one of the light beers which would save you 40 to 55 calories per beer.

4. Cocktails With Pre-Made Mixes

Margarita With Flowers in Background

Pre-made cocktail mixes are a popular item because they save so much time. We can all agree that homemade is better, but when the party gets started and the drinks are flowing, taking too much time mixing the drinks can stall the party atmosphere.

But, the downside is that cocktails like the margarita made with pre-made mixes are loaded with both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. For example, a four-ounce serving of one of the margarita mixes contains 140 calories, 35 grams of carbohydrates, and 32 grams of sugar.

The good news is that you can still enjoy the occasional margarita by substituting fresh lime juice and simple syrup for a pre-made mix to create a healthier and lower-calorie mixed drink.

5. Regular Beer

Although it is one of the oldest kinds of alcoholic beverages, beer is considered one of the most unhealthy because of the way it is made. It is made by fermenting starches, primarily cereal grains, and is loaded with sugar and carbs. The four main ingredients are yeast, water, grains, and hops. The grain used in most types of beer is malted barley, but corn, rice, and wheat are also used.

There are many processes around the world for making beer and many different kinds of beer, but 12 ounces of most regular beer contains 147 calories and 11 grams of carbs. And even though many claim that beer provides such health benefits as antioxidants and various vitamins and minerals, according to WebMD, drinking more than two beers a day can lead to substantial weight gain and increased chances of getting a liver disease known as cirrhosis.

But, if beer is the drink you prefer, a healthier option would be one of the light beers, which only has 110 calories and 7 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving.

6. Dessert Drinks

Drinks that taste like dessert are quite popular, especially among people with a sweet tooth. Dessert drinks like the White Russian which is made with heavy cream can produce up to 500 calories and a whopping 36% fat. One White Russian has approximately the same calories as a medium blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Is it possible to make a healthier version of the White Russian so you can still enjoy a dessert drink? If you make the drink with half-and-half instead of heavy cream, you can significantly reduce the calorie and fat content. For example, according to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), one tablespoon of heavy cream contains 51 calories and 36% fat, and one tablespoon of half-and-half contains 20 calories and between 10.5 and 18% fat, making half-and-half the healthier option.

7. Alcohol Mixed With Energy Drinks

Hand Holding a Can of Red Bull Energy Drink

The current trend of mixing alcohol with energy drinks creates an alcoholic beverage that is not only unhealthy, but dangerous. Vodka Redbulls and any other types of alcohol/energy drink combinations should be avoided. Not only does the energy drink amplify the alcohol content, but, according to Behavioral Health Centers, the possible consequences of consuming these drinks include:

  • Developing unhealthy drinking habits
  • Addiction
  • Excessive energy drink consumption
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Health risks such as heart disease, stroke, liver damage, and cancer
  • Dehydration
  • Increased likelihood of accidents

Avoid combining any drink that is a stimulant, like energy drinks, with one that creates a euphoric or sedative effect, like alcohol, and follow safe drinking guidelines. According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control), adults of legal drinking age can choose to either refrain from drinking or to do so safely by drinking in moderation by limiting their daily alcohol intake to two drinks for men and one drink for women.

8. Drinks With High-Calorie Fruit Juice

What could be a healthier cocktail than one mixed with fruit juice? We all know that although fruit juice is loaded with sugar, it is a natural sugar that comes with loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are known to provide all sorts of health benefits.

But keep in mind that calories from fruit juice are almost all from sugar because the fruit’s natural fiber has been removed during the juicing process. While fruit juice is undeniably healthier than soft drinks in your alcoholic beverages, they still contain a significant amount of calories, more in some than others.

To avoid piling on calories that will wreck your diet, avoid the higher-calorie juices and stick with the ones on the low side. Here is a list of the more common juices used in making cocktails and the number of calories they contain per eight-ounce serving:

  • Apple – 110 calories
  • Apricot Nectar – 130
  • Concord Grape – 170
  • Cranberry – 110
  • Grape – 144
  • Grapefruit – 110
  • Lemon – 50
  • Lime – 50
  • Orange – 110
  • Papaya – 139
  • Peach – 130
  • Pear – 144
  • Pineapple – 127
  • Pomegranate – 158
  • Tomato – 41
  • White Grape – 180

9. Drinks Mixed With High-Calorie Sodas

Bourbon and Coke, Vodka, and 7. These are two old standards when it comes to mixed drinks. But why put them on a list of unhealthy alcoholic beverages? Because regular sugared sodas add a lot of calories to a mixed drink. Coca-cola, Sprite, and 7Up all have 150 calories in each 12-ounce serving.

To continue having that preferred drink without adding all those calories to your diet, either substitute one of the low-calorie versions of your favorite soda or switch to a different mixer like water or club soda, all with 0 calories.

10. High ABV Alcohol

Some types of alcohol have extremely high ABV (alcohol by volume) rates. Two types of alcohol with the highest ABV rates are Balkan Vodka, which is 176 proof (88% alcohol), and Bacardi Rum, 151 proof (75.5%).

According to the CDC, the standard drink contains .6 ounces of pure alcohol. That standard drink translates to different types of drinks as follows:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
  • 1.5 ounces (1 shot) of 80 proof distilled spirits or liquor (40% alcohol content).

Any time you consume a drink with a lower ABV, you are consuming less alcohol which is considered to be healthier, or at least less unhealthy. This will lower the number of calories consumed and thus reduce the effects of the alcohol on your body. This is a good thing.

However, by reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, we are often tempted to have additional drinks, thus defeating our attempts to drink more responsibly. So, we should just be careful that our attempts to drink more responsibly don’t lead to binge drinking.

Final Thoughts

Some folks find that alternating alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic drinks help them to limit their alcohol consumption. For example, they will have one glass of wine, then drink one glass of grape juice before having the second glass of wine. Or, they may have a screwdriver, then order a glass of orange juice before having the second screwdriver.

For more, don’t miss 6 Least Acidic Alcoholic Drinks (And 6 to Avoid).