31st October 2014

Apart from the negative effects drinking too much alcohol can have on health, alcohol also contains calories (7 kcals per gram) so can contribute to weight gain.

Many people are not aware of the calories contained in alcoholic drinks. The calories (and units) can really add up. Have a look at our chart and see how many calories your tipple has. Alcohol may not only stimulate the appetite, but also weakens the resolve not to over-indulge, so any good intentions you might have about eating sensibly may be lost once you’ve had a few glasses.

 

Remember the government recommendations for alcohol

In 2016, the Department of Health updated the guidelines for alcohol consumption and now recommends no more than 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women. If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more (rather than having one or two heavy drinking sessions).

 

Reduce your alcohol, reduce your calories

  • Alternate alcohol containing drinks with low calorie soft drinks or water.
  • Make sure you know how much you are actually drinking and don’t allow someone else to replenish your glass before it is empty.
  • Stick to single measures (even at home - buy a measure) and use sugar free drinks for mixers.
  • Mix one part beer or wine with one part low calorie soft drink. Add diet lemonade to lager to make a shandy or soda water to white wine for a spritzer - same volume, but half the calories and units.
  • Switch from pints to half pints or bottles and opt for a smaller wine glass.
  • Sweet wines or sweet ciders will typically have more calories than dry versions.

Choose your alcohol with lower ABV

Alcohol content is expressed as a percentage of the whole drink. Look on a bottle of wine or a can of lager and you'll see either a percentage, followed by the abbreviation "ABV" (alcohol by volume), or sometimes just the word "vol". Wine that says "13 ABV" on its label contains 13% pure alcohol.

The alcoholic content in similar types of drinks can vary a lot. The higher the ABV, the higher the alcohol content and typically the higher the calorie count. Swapping a standard glass of red wine with an ABV 14%, for the same size glass of red wine with an ABV 12%, will save both calories and units.

For more information on the sources used in this text, please contact postbox@nutrition.org.uk

Last reviewed November 2014. Revised January 2016. Next review due November 2017