How many calories are you drinking?

Thanks to a strong media presence and the prevalence of public education messages on food intake, most of us are fairly savvy when it comes to awareness of calorie counts. The regulations on nutritional information on packaged foods are now quite strict, and it’s relatively easy to identify calorie intake on anything we see on our supermarket shelves.

But take a look at the label on the bottle of beer in the fridge or the cheeky red in your wine rack and it can be a different story. Many do not provide any information on nutritional properties, other than alcoholic content. In fact, as one of the directors of Australia’s Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education recently pointed out, less than half of alcoholic drinks have appropriate labelling and the standards for alcoholic labelling are totally out of keeping with what we do for food packaging.

So how many calories are in a standard drink?
The next time you kick back with your favourite ‘bevvy’ it might pay to consider what it might be doing to your waistline. Alcohol is extremely high in sugar and that means it’s packed with calories. In fact at around seven calories a gram it is only 2 calories per gram behind pure fat!

Switching to a low carb or light option beer will reduce your calorie intake.

Let’s see what that means when we translate it into standard drink sizes:

  • Light beer 375ml: = 94 calories 
  • Low carb beer 375m = 110 calories
  • Beer 375ml = 135 calories
  • Cider 375ml = 140 calories 
  • Red 200ml = 133 calories
  • White wine (sweet) 200ml = 189 calories
  • White wine (dry) 200ml = 135 calories
  • Spirits 30ml = 60 calories
  • Alcopop 275 ml = up to 171 calories

When you consider an 80kg person would need to take a brisk walk of 2 kilometres to burn off 120 calories, it really puts the weight-gaining potential of alcohol into perspective.

Some ‘sobering’ statistics
Most of us enjoy a tipple now-and-then, and while complete abstinence is always the healthier option, a general rule of thumb is that no more than 2 standard drinks a day is the limit to safe consumption. Once we decide to indulge more than that, the long term effects on health can be catastrophic.

The World Health Organisation states that alcohol is a casual factor in more than 60 major types of disease and injury. In Australia alone, alcohol will be a factor in killing 15 Australians and causing 430 hospitalisations, every day.

While cigarette packaging rules in recent years have made health impacts graphically clear, the same approach has not yet been extended to alcohol, so it is up to us to keep informed on what the potential dangers can be.

Be aware
If you do enjoy a drink, there is no need to become a complete wowser overnight, but it pays to be aware of some of the hidden effects. It is worth being mindful that the extra imbibing may be impacting your weight gain just as much as the extra helping of steak!

Drink in moderation and opt for low calorie drinks when you can to help stay in tip top shape and prevent more serious health risks.

Do you believe all alcoholic beverages should have appropriate labelling and nutritional information? Let us know in the comments below.