Alcohol and calories


Just about every packaged food is required to have a Nutrition Facts label, which indicates the serving size and the amount of calories, fat, carbs, and other nutrients per serving. So why not wine, beer, and spirits? Such labels on alcoholic beverages would be pretty revealing.

Did you know, for instance, that the standard serving of wine is just 150 ml, which can have anywhere from 100 to 190 (or more) calories, depending on the percent alcohol and sugar content? Or that the calories in a 330 ml of beer can range from 55 to more than 200 (as in some brands of stout)? Want that 80-proof whiskey or tequila straight up? You’ll chug down about 100 calories in a 45 ml shot. Have a 300 ml “Jack and Coke” and you’ll get about 200 calories—nearly as many as in an order of fast-food French fries. How about that White Russian? It will set you back about 400 calories in just 120 ml—the equivalent of a double cheeseburger.

Accounting for the calories

American adults consume, on average, 100 calories a day from alcoholic beverages, according to a CDC survey. That average is deceptive, however, because it includes the many people who don’t drink alcohol or do so only occasionally, as well as those who consume it daily or in large quantities. As the survey found, about 20 percent of men and 6 percent of women average more than 300 calories a day from alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol provides nearly twice as many calories per gram as carbs and protein (7 versus 4 calories) and almost as many as fat (9 calories per gram). Plus, alcohol can have a disinhibiting effect on appetite control, so drinking before or during a meal may lead you to overeat and possibly make less healthful choices.

Another problem is that many people are simply unaware of how many calories their drinks contain. Even fastidious dieters may underestimate the calories or write them off altogether, largely because of the lack of labeling. Yet the “hidden” calories from one drink a day (150 on average) could lead to a weight gain of 7 kg a year.


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