The number one rule of weight loss is to cut down on the amount of alcohol you are consuming. Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and have almost zero nutritional value, and the negative impact does add up quite quickly.
But whether it’s a special occasion, or a treat after a long week at work, there will be times when you want to have a drink or two. The key is just to enjoy your alcohol in moderation and be aware of how much you are consuming.
Here is a basic guide to the calorie content of different types of alcohol, so you can make smart choices for your diet plan.
If you’re going to drink, wine is probably your most diet-friendly choice. Each regular glass (150 ml) has 100 calories. This is the same for both red and white wine and most different varieties. Often when people want to reduce the amount of alcohol they are consuming a good option is to mix white wine with sparkling water to create a light spritzer- this can then half your calorie intake.
Hard liquor has just slightly more calories than wine, with most standard spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, rum etc) containing between 104 and 120 calories per shot (30 mls). The important thing to remember is to factor in the calories in whatever you are mixing it with- juice or regular soft drink will add anywhere from 80 to 150 extra calories. So, if you’re going to drink spirits, it’s best to either drink them straight, or with calorie-free mixers like diet soft drink or plain mineral or tonic water.
The calorie content of beer can vary amongst different types. Light beer is your best diet-friendly option, with around 130 calories to a pint, while regular varieties will range from 180 to 250 per pint. And you won’t sacrifice much flavour, so choose light beers wherever possible. Be aware also that it can be hard to estimate how much you’re actually drinking when you’re pouring from a jug, so try to keep a close eye on it.
The strong, sweet taste doesn’t lie- liqueurs pack in a lot of calories, so enjoy them sparingly. Depending on the flavour, they generally have around 155 calories per shot. The other problem is that liqueurs are often served with cream or other mixers, which will significantly increase the calorie and fat content. If you enjoy them served alone or over ice, then this is your best choice.
Generally, you should avoid cocktails when you’re trying to lose weight- for the simple reason that they’re likely to pack in a combination of spirits and liqueurs, along with sugary juices, syrups, or even ice cream. Some cocktails can have up to 500 calories or more- so be wary of all those creamy or fruity treats.
To sum up, most health experts recommend the following hierarchy: choose red wine over white wine; choose wine over beer; choose darker beers over lighter beers; and choose beer over liquor and liqueur. In terms of calories, remember: 425ml light beer = 285 ml regular beer = 100ml wine = 60ml fortified wine = 30 ml spirits.
Other diet dangers of alcohol
Apart from the calorie content, there are other ways alcohol can impact your diet plan that you should be aware of. When alcohol is consumed by the body, it’s broken down in acetate (which is more or less vinegar), which will be used for energy before any other calorie you’ve consumed or stored. So any fat or sugar you consume while you’re drinking are more likely to be stored in the body, because you’re already getting enough energy from the acetate. It has also been shown that alcohol temporarily inhibits lipid oxidation- which basically means that when alcohol is in your system, it’s harder for your body to burn stored fat.
Alcohol can also stimulate your appetite, and because often alcohol is consumed in venues where the food choices are mostly high in calories and low in nutrients, it’s important to make sure you’ve had a good, healthy meal beforehand to help prevent mindlessly snacking on nachos or fries.