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Are you drinking the calorie equivalent of a pile of donuts?

By Jessica Tong, RD on April 24 2018 | Nutrition & Recipes

Do you enjoy a glass of wine to help you unwind after a stressful work day or a cold beer on a hot summer’s day? Well, you won’t hear any judgments from us.

As with most of life’s indulgences, the key to a healthy, balanced lifestyle is moderation. A few decades ago, a 5 oz glass of wine was the standard restaurant pour. Today, however, many restaurants make you feel as though the 5 oz glass is a taster portion – offering it alongside 8 oz, 9 oz, and 10 oz serving options.

Prefer beer? If you have two pints in an evening, you’ve well exceeded the healthy limit. It’s a common misconception in Canada that a restaurant “pint” is 16 oz because that is the US standard. Canadian beer law, however, states that a “pint” is 20 oz, nearly the equivalent of two bottles or two standard “servings” of beer. So much for moderation!

A glass of OJ at breakfast, a can of pop at lunch, a fruit smoothie for an afternoon snack, and a bottle of beer or two in the evening and, all of a sudden, you’ve consumed half your daily recommended Calorie intake (or more) in beverages alone! In Canada, alcoholic beverage manufactures are not required to disclose nutritional information on their product labels such as Calories, sugar, and carbohydrates. Pure alcohol contains 7 Calories per gram, which is comparatively high when considering that both carbohydrates and protein contain only 4 Calories per gram. Add juice, pop, simple syrup, or cream to the mix and you may be gulping down the Calorie equivalent of a Big Mac and fries!

As a general estimate, the average beer contains about 150 Calories per 12 oz serving and the average glass of wine contains about 120 Calories per 5 oz glass. Because alcohol is typically higher in Calories than “mixers”, stronger drinks have more Calories per ounce. Of course, the bigger the serving, the higher the Calories! Not surprisingly, sweetertasting drinks are also higher in Calories. Wines, for example can range from 0 to about 220 grams of sugar per litre, depending on the style. White wines tend to contain fewer Calories and less alcohol than reds, and dry wines tend to contain fewer Calories than off-dry or sweet wines, depending on alcohol content. Drinks mixed with pop, syrups, and fruit juice are particularly high in Calories. Beer radlers and alcoholic ciders for example, contain about 30% more Calories per ounce than beer, despite the fact they are lower in alcohol.

When it comes to alcohol, how much is too much?

There is a consensus in medical and scientific circles that alcoholic beverage consumption should be limited to a maximum of 7-9 drinks per week for women and 14 drinks per week for men, not exceeding 1-2 drinks in one day. A “drink” is considered to be 12 ounces (341 ml) of beer, 5 ounces (142 ml) of wine or 1.5 ounces (43 ml) of spirits.

The below list of higher Calorie vs. lower Calorie alcoholic beverage types and serving sizes is intended to help you estimate how many Calories you might be drinking in a given week based on your alcoholic beverage consumption. We don’t advocate “counting Calories” when it comes to alcohol beverages. We recommend thinking of alcohol as a treat. When you do treat yourself, opt for a small portion and truly enjoy it.

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Data sourced from Innocorp Ltd., and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.