It’s official – party season is here. And for a lot of people, that means doing a lot more of one thing in particular: drinking. But if you’ve got weight loss in mind, you might be wondering if there are better choices to make, calorie-wise. So, here’s your dietitian-approved answer.
Before I launch into full calorie-counting mode, let’s get one thing straight: there is no guaranteed safe level of alcohol consumption. Put simply, the more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk. Some of the potential risks are very serious – impacting your liver, brain and heart. What’s more, drinking can increase your risk of certain cancers, too.
So, it’s wise to have no more than two standard drinks a day (as recommended by the Department of Health). You should also aim for at least two alcohol-free days a week.
If weight loss is your game, that’s another reason to go without alcohol. You see, alcohol is very energy-dense (and it offers no nutritional benefit). Compared to protein or carbs, which contribute 4 calories per gram, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. To put that into perspective, one standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol (i.e. 70 calories just from alcohol) – so it can add up pretty quickly.
There are some drinks, though, that offer fewer total calories than others. To give you an idea, here’s the calorie content of a range of common alcoholic drinks:
- 150mLs red wine = 102 calories
- 150mLs white wine = 102 calories
- 150mLs champagne = 111 calories
- 450mL schooner of regular beer = 163 calories
- 450mL schooner of light beer = 111 calories
- 375mL bottle of cider = 144 calories
- One mojito = 170 calories
- One Pina Colada = 289 calories
- Gin and tonic (1 shot of gin with 125mL tonic) = 110 calories
Tips to cut calories
Now that you understand the term ‘liquid calories’, you’re probably wondering what you can do to minimise them. Here are my top tips:
- Alternate one alcoholic drink with one non-alcoholic drink. Try to avoid sugary soft-drinks (which are just as calorie-dense), and opt for lower calorie alternatives like kombucha or sparkling water.
- Choose low-alcohol beer instead of regular beer.
- Steer clear of sugary, creamy cocktails (hello espresso martini) and opt for ones that are based on sparkling water.
- Make friends with spritzers. Mix half a glass of wine with half a glass of sparkling water to cut the calories in half.
- Avoid snacking on salty food when you’re drinking. These make you thirstier, so you’re likely to drink more and therefore consume more calories (not to mention the calories from the food itself!).
In contrast to what you’re probably thinking, I promise I’m not a party pooper! I love a mojito just as much as the next person, and I know that summer BBQs just wouldn’t be the same without a refreshing cider.
Like all things in the world of nutrition, I think what’s important when it comes to alcohol is… balance. If you choose to drink, do your best to follow the guidelines outlined above, and if weight-loss is your goal, consider having less-calorific drinks – or abstaining from alcohol altogether!
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au, or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.