Making sacrifices is essential to slimming down, but there's no reason to give up great taste when picking a better-for-you brew. Just learn what to look for. Instead of knocking back watery, low-cal lagers from big box brands, go for a drink with a rich, unique flavor. You'll be more satisfied and less tempted to gulp down multiple glasses, says Molly Kimball, RD, nutrition manager at the Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. Stop obsessing over the word "light" and opt for one of these 10 suds that won't grow your gut. (Search: Does beer have any health benefits?)
Calorie estimates and alcohol by volume (ABV) from brewers' websites or RateBeer.com
4.5% ABV, 135 calories for 12 oz
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A seasonal specialty from the Delaware-based brewery, Festina Peche is an American take on the Berliner Weisse, a cloudy, low-alcohol wheat beer popularized in Germany. Because it's fermented with real peaches and lactobacillus, a bacterium that's also used to make yogurt, this beer is fruity, refreshing, and a little tart, notes Matt Simpson, owner of The Beer Sommelier.
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3.2% ABV, 96 calories for 12 oz
Don't let this smooth and creamy English ale's coffee-like appearance and foamy head fool you into thinking it's a heavy beer. This brew is mild, but gets its rich color from roasted malts. Skinny calorie credentials come from Dark Mild's low alcohol content. Generally speaking, the lower the percentage of alcohol in a beer, the fewer calories it contains, explains Simpson.
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4.6% ABV, 155 calories for 12 oz
While most beers are wheat or barley-based, this American lager is made from a naturally gluten-free species of grass called sorghum. "It's not too bitter and has some floral notes, so it's good for somebody who might not be into super hoppy beers," says Kimball.
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3.9% ABV, 117 calories for 12 oz
If you've got a sweet tooth, this ruby-colored brew may satisfy it. Malty, but not very hoppy or bitter, it contains hints of light chocolate, smoke, and peat. "It has a complex flavor, but it's light enough that you can drink a few without feeling woozy," says Simpson.
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4.8% ABV, 144 calories for 12 oz
Prefer a brew with a good back story? This one's an American take on the Kellerweis--keller meaning "cellar" or "basement" in German and weis indicating a white, wheat-based beer. The traditional (and labor-intensive) Bavarian style of open fermentation gives the beer a unique hoppy flavor. You'll taste hints of clove as well as citrus, an ingredient that packs a lot of punch for few calories, notes Simpson.
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4.1% ABV, 123 calories for 12 oz
Here's a happy hour fun fact: While the bubbles in most beers come from carbon dioxide, Beamish pumps nitrogen into its cans of Irish stout. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller and make for a richer, creamier texture. This beer is light, easy to drink, and has notes of roasted grain and chocolate, says Simpson.
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4.2% ABV, 126 calories for 12 oz
For anybody looking for a truly unique drinking experience, this red-hued Australian ale is infused with a seasonal spice that has a diabetes-beating benefit. "This one contains cinnamon, which may help maintain stable blood sugar levels," says Kimball.
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4.9% ABV, 147 calories for 12 oz
When we see the word "sunset," we think summer, but this brew is available year round. Rightfully so, this American wheat beer, inspired by Wisconsin sunsets, is light, malty, citrusy, and slightly spicy, as it's brewed with coriander.
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4.5% ABV, 128 calories for 12 oz
The top seller at Abita, a New Orleans-based brewery, this lager boasts "a smooth, malty, slightly caramel flavor and a rich amber color." Amber is also popular for pairing with a variety of foods, from pasta sauce to crawfish to caviar. And the locals love it: "It's really smooth, doesn't have a lot of bite to it, and it's a tiny bit sweet, but not too sweet," says Kimball.
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8.2% ABV, 246 calories for 12 oz
Here's one you'll have to split. Aventinus is on the indulgent side with hints of caramel, chocolate, fruit, and spice, but it's fun to order and touts a unique health benefit, says Kimball. This beer has a very high yeast content, and the more yeast that a beer contains, the higher it is in B vitamins, she explains.
Next up: 8 More Tasty Brews That Won't Grow Your Gut