Alcohol & the No Sugar Challenge

So you’re committed to not having any sugar for the next month… but what about alcohol?!

It’s the burning question everyone’s been asking: “can I drink alcohol on the No Sugar Challenge??” Read on for our Dietitian’s recommendations.

 

The No Sugar Challenge is here! Leading up to the challenge, we encouraged you to stock your pantries and refrigerators with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and staple items and snacks with no added sugar (the previous post includes a variety of no-sugar-added grocery list items if you would like more guidance on this). We have talked a lot about all the do’s and don’ts regarding food…but what about beverages?

Let’s just address the white elephant in the room: can you still drink alcohol on the No Sugar Challenge? The answer is yes - but let’s talk details.

Wine

Some wines have more sugar in them than others depending on if they are dry or sweet. However, the sugar in wine is not added sugar because it comes from the sugar that is naturally occurring in grapes. This means you may have a glass of wine while cooking your delicious, sugar-free dinner! Dry wines have less sugar than sweet wines, so in the interest of reducing overall sugar consumption this month choose a dry wine if possible. Dry red wines include Pinot noir, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, and Syrah. Dry white wines include Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc, and Pinot grigio.

Beer & Cider

The sugar content in beer is actually lower than many wines, but it is important to keep in mind that the amount of carbohydrates per serving is higher. While most beers do not have any added sugar (so yes, you can drink beer on the No Sugar Challenge!), watch out for specialty “flavored” beers, as breweries will often add sugars to create special flavors.

Hard ciders are a little more complicated. Most ciders are made from fruit, which is allowed because the sugar is naturally occurring, not added. Typically, organic hard ciders do not have added sugar in them. However, there are many ciders that are made using additional sugars and preservatives. It is very important to check the ingredient list and label to see if there is any amount of added sugar.

Spirits

Most hard alcohols such as vodka, gin, tequila, rum and whisky contain little carbohydrates and no added sugar and are allowed during the No Sugar Challenge.

The problem comes when you start mixing hard alcohols into cocktails. For example, tonic water has about 21 grams of sugar per cup, and cranberry juice has up to 30 grams of sugar per cup! It is also important to remember that diet soda and diet tonic waters contain “artificial sweeteners”, which should be avoided during this challenge as well.

Almost any cocktail you order at a restaurant or bar is guaranteed to have sugar in it (margarita, mojito, long island, whiskey and coke, Moscow mule, etc..). Your best bet is to order your choice of hard alcohol with soda water and lime or lemon, or a sparkling water like La Croix. You can also ask the bartender to muddle some fruit, mint, or cucumber in your vodka or tequila soda!

All this being said, we don’t recommend substituting sugar for alcohol - it is still important to keep your alcoholic beverage consumption to a minimum during the No Sugar Challenge (this means no more than 1 drink per day for women, and no more than 2 drinks per day for men). Although there are many alcoholic drinks with no added sugar, alcohol does have an impact on your overall health. If you want to take the No Sugar Challenge to the next level, remove alcohol completely for the next month and see how your body feels!

If you have any additional questions, post them in our Experience Momentum Nutrition private Facebook group or email us at nutrition@experiencemomentum.com and our team of Registered Dietitians will answer!