Can I Drink Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet?

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

The short answer:  yes, but…

First, discuss with your doctor whether the use of alcohol may negatively impact your health.  Potential dangers include interacting with medications you may be taking and/or worsening certain chronic conditions you may have such as fatty liver, gout, and hypertension.

Should you and your doctor feel that occasional alcohol is safe for you, it can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a low carb lifestyle.  For example, there are lower-carb alcohol options that you can choose such as dry wines and spirits.  You can also use sugar-free mixers to enjoy low-carb variations of your favorite drinks like a rum and diet coke or a Moscow Mule made with diet ginger beer.

Remember however, that even if your doctor feels moderate alcohol is safe for you, it still can stall or greatly slow weight loss.   

General rules for alcohol use with low-carb diets:

  1. Choose dry wines (cabernet, pinot noir, chardonnay, Chablis, zinfandel), champagnes, spirits and (very) low carb beer if any beer at all. Remember to only combine with sugar-free mixers.

  2. Limit your consumption. Too many drinks can not only add up in calories from the alcohol but also limit your ability to steer clear of the dessert tray or reaching for snacks when you’re not hungry. Know the size of your pour and be aware of your limit!  We generally advise patients to stay under 1 drink per day.

  3. Try to avoid dessert wines like ports and sherries due to high sugar content. Likewise, avoid fruit-flavored cocktail mixers and dark beers.