Calories in alcohol

Did you know a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps?

The average wine drinker in England takes in around 2,000kcal from alcohol every month.

Drinking five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.

Many drinkers add to their calorie count by having snacks, such as crisps, nuts or pork scratchings, to accompany their tipple.

A heavy drinking session is often followed by an unhealthy breakfast to help cope with a hangover, which again helps to pile on the pounds.

Going for a fry-up instead of your usual bowl of cereal can add an extra 450kcal to the calorie count from the night before.

The findings are based on an online survey of nearly 2,000 adults in England in March 2009 by YouGov for the Department of Health.

Work out how many calories are in your favourite tipple with our alcohol calorie table

Regularly drinking more than the NHS recommends can have a noticeable impact on your waistline as well as cause less obvious but more serious health problems.

Many women don’t realise that two large glasses of white wine not only puts them over the recommended daily limit for regular alcohol consumption, but also provides them with nearly 20% of their recommended daily calorie intake, at approximately 370kcal in total.

Most people would baulk at consuming a full glass of single cream, but wouldn’t think twice about the calorie content of a couple of pints. But the calorie content is similar and, over time, excess alcohol intake can easily contribute to gaining weight.

Wine, beer, cider, spirits and all our favourite drinks are made from natural starch and sugar. Fermentation, and distillation for certain drinks, is used to produce the alcohol content. This helps explain why alcohol contains lots of calories – seven calories a gram in fact, almost as many as a gram of fat. And, of course, additional calories can be present in added mixer drinks.

The NHS recommends:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day
  • If you've had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol for 48 hours

    "Regularly" means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week.

    Tips to avoid weight gain

    To reduce the chances of gaining weight from drinking alcohol, follow these tips from the British Nutrition Foundation:

    • Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.
    • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water – this will help to prevent you becoming dehydrated.
    • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. If you do reach for snacks while drinking, opt for a healthier option – choose a sandwich instead of crisps or chips, or choose a chicken burger without mayonnaise instead of a kebab with garlic sauce.
    • Drinking in rounds can mean you end up drinking more than you intended. Opt out and drink at your own pace.
    • Try cutting down with a friend, as you’ll be more likely to stick to it with moral support.
    • Eat a healthier dinner before you start drinking. Order or cook before you start drinking so you’re not tempted to go for the less healthy options.
    • Pace yourself by taking small sips.
    • Avoid "binge drinking" – it is not advisable to "save up" your units to splurge at the weekend.
    • If you’re drinking white wine, why not add a splash of soda water to help the same number of units last longer?

    For more help on reducing your alcohol intake, read Tips on cutting down.

    How many calories are in your drink?

    With a pint of beer the same as a packet of crisps, and a standard bottle of alcopop the same as three teacakes, the calories from alcohol soon add up.

    Calories in alcohol*
    Drink Calories (kcal)  Food equivalent
    A standard glass (175ml) of 12% wine 126kcal 1 Cadbury Heroes miniature bar
    A pint of 5% strength beer 215kcal 1 packet of McCoy's salted crisps
    A glass (50ml) of (17%) cream liqueur 118kcal 1 Milky Way bar
    A standard bottle (330ml) of 5% alcopop 237kcal 3 Lees teacakes
    A double measure (50ml) of 17.5% fortified wine 65kcal 1 Asda bourbon biscuit

    *Calculated using Change4Life's Drinks Checker.

    Page last reviewed: 16/12/2014

    Next review due: 16/12/2016


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