With the recent buzz around “low calorie” vodkas like Skinny Girl and Voli, I thought it’d be a good time to talk about vodka and dieting. Before I start, this discussion is ONLY related to unflavored vodka. The flavoring in flavored vodkas can add calories and carbs, and vary wildly in how much. If you’re drinking flavored vodka, you can google for nutritional info and see how it fits in with your diet.
First, I’ll address the gimmick. Skinny Girl and Voli aren’t low calorie. They are lower proof. Most vodkas are 80 proof, which is 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). Skinny Girl and Voli are 60 proof, or 30% ABV. They are lower calorie by virtue of containing less alcohol and they tend to recommend smaller serving sizes to make their calorie numbers look better. That means you need to drink more to achieve the same effects as standard vodka. Unless you are a light weight, you aren’t coming out much better.
30 proof vodkas Skinny Girl and Voli are both approximately 75 calories per 1.5 fluid ounces.
80 proof vodka is 97 calories per 1.5 fluid ounces, has zero carbs, and is gluten free by virtue of the distillation process (unless the vodka has been contaminated after distillation, in which case there are plenty of great corn and potato vodkas that don’t risk contamination). It also turns out that rum, whiskey, and tequila are also 97 calories per 1.5 fluid ounces and zero carb. So, the following holds true to those spirits as well.
Low Calorie Diets
Vodka doesn’t stack up very well against light beer and wine in the calorie department. For example, Mich Ultra has 95 calories per 12 ounce serving. 12 ounces of 5% ABV beer is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of 40% ABV vodka. So, if you’re only counting calories, it’s a toss up between light beer and vodka.
A non-light beer, like Blue Moon, has 171 per 12 fluid ounces. Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch has 221 calories per 12 fluid ounces. So, if you will only drink “real beer,” vodka is a better choice.
Wine is difficult to assess. Dry wines have less sugar and are therefore lower calorie. Wine can vary between 85 calories to 180 calories. If you like dry wine, you’re better off sticking with that. If you prefer sweeter varieties, vodka is a better choice.
If you’re mixing vodka, pay attention to your mixers. If you’re not using a low calorie mixer, you’re not going to reap any benefits.
Low Carb Diets
Vodka is great for low carb dieting. Especially in the early induction stages, every carb counts, and zero carb is much better than even Mich Ultra’s 2.5 carbs per 12 fluid ounces.
The clincher is your mixer, though. Most traditional cocktails contain a ton of sugar. Even unsweetened cranberry juice has 30 carbs per serving. Make sure you know your mixer is low carb before you imbibe. There are plenty of sugar free mixers, like Crystal Light or MiO, that taste great if you don’t like straight vodka. I suggest finding something with zero carbs to mix with that you like, and don’t deviate.
Well, really, I just suggest drinking your vodka straight, but that’s my personal preference.
There are a few caveats to drinking in general, but especially when it comes to dieting.
First, the body processes alcohol first. If there is alcohol in your system, the human body will forgo processing nutrients to metabolize the alcohol. This can lead to calories being converted directly into fat for storage.
Second, alcohol is empty calories. There is no nutritional value in alcohol. So, if you’re trying to be healthy about what you eat, don’t think of alcohol as healthy.
Finally, being drunk decreases inhibitions. People are more likely to not care about what they eat when they are drunk. If you don’t have a lot of will power with your diet, you’re likely to screw up your diet after drinking.