Alcohol Dos and Don'ts

If you’re following a healthy eating plan, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. And on the South Beach Diet, certain beverages (like sugary sodas and fruit juices) can be diet busters. But what about alcoholic beverages like wine and beer? Starting on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet, you can enjoy alcohol in moderation. It’s recommended that women limit their intake to one alcoholic beverage a day, and men to one or two a day. More than that not only adds empty calories, it can also sabotage your willpower and have negative effects on your health over the long run.

If you’re following the South Beach Diet Gluten Solution (GS) Program, and are avoiding or cutting back on gluten, we recommend that you stick to red wine, ouzo, extra-brut champagne, extra-brut cava, or extra-brut prosecco, which are gluten free. You can also enjoy certain types of sake. Gluten-free beer is available but is not recommended on any Phase because it is relatively high in calories and, as of this writing, we have not seen a gluten-free light beer. People with a slight gluten sensitivity can also enjoy distilled beverages, such as scotch, whisky, and gin, because the gluten in them is marginal. That said, if you are highly gluten sensitive, it may be best to consume only potato-based vodka (avoid flavored varieties), rum (made from sugarcane), and tequila (made from agave).

Before grabbing a drink, check out our alcohol dos and don'ts:

  1. Do eat a nutritious meal or snack containing some protein before you have a drink. The protein helps to stabilize swings in blood sugar and prevent cravings.
  2. Don’t drink too early in the evening because you may be tempted to have several drinks, and then several more.
  3. Do opt for red wine over white most of the time. Red wine is a better choice because it contains higher amounts of the powerful antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in red grape skins.
  4. Don’t go for regular beer. Stick with the occasional light beer and drink it with meals.
  5. Do choose extra-brut champagne, prosecco, or cava, which have no or very little residual sugar. Brut and extra-dry varieties of champagne, which have only slightly more residual sugar than extra-brut, are acceptable second choices.
  6. Do choose sugar-free mixers for cocktails. Sugar-free sodas, flavored waters, low-sodium tomato juice and vegetable juice blends, club soda, seltzer, or diet tonic water are good bets. Be sure to avoid regular sodas, regular tonic water, and fruit juices. Another tip: Use sugar-free powdered drink mixes to make punch or other fruit-flavored cocktails.
  7. Do top your drink with garnishes like lemon and lime wedges, or add olives or celery sticks. Definitely skip the maraschino cherries, which are packed with sugar. Here’s a rundown of which alcoholic drinks to enjoy and which to avoid on the traditional South Beach Diet (see above for Gluten Solution suggestions):


Here's a rundown of which alcoholic drinks to enjoy and which to avoid on the traditional South Beach Diet (see above for Gluten Solution suggestions).


  • Bourbon (1 serving = 1 1/2 oz., which is a standard shot glass)
  • Cava, extra-brut (1 serving = 4 to 5 oz.)
  • Champagne, extra-brut (1 serving = 4 to 5 oz.)
  • Gin (1 serving = 1 1/2 oz.)
  • Light beer (1 serving = 12 oz.)
  • Ouzo (1 serving = 1 glass, 4 oz.)
  • Prosecco, extra-brut (1 serving= 4 to 5 oz.)
  • Red and white wine (1 serving = 4 to 5 oz.)
  • Rum (1 serving = 1 1/2 oz.)
  • Sake (1 serving = 1 1/2 oz.)
  • Tequila (1 serving = 1 1/2 oz.)
  • Vodka (1 serving = 1 1/2 oz.)


  • Beer, regular
  • Brandy
  • Liqueurs
  • Port wine
  • Sherry
  • Sugary cocktails
  • Wine coolers (often contain a lot of added sugar)


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