Three pints of India pale ale can deliver you half a day’s worth of calories. And a typical glass of California cabernet sauvignon nowadays may beget more alcohol and more calories than it would beget a decade ago.
But you’d never know it.
Unlike companies that produce food, brewers, distillers, and winemakers aren’t required to reveal calories and ingredients on their cans and bottles. (They’ve lobbied against it for years.) And survey data has shown that very few people beget any opinion what’s in their boozy beverages of choice.
The public health community has pushed tough to change that. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been advocating for more transparency around alcohol labeling for more than a decade. final year, the BMJ argued that alcoholic drinks contribute to obesity and also called for mandatory nutrition labels.
Recently there beget been small gains. Some of the nation’s biggest brewers — including Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries, and Craft Brew Alliance — vowed to start publishing nutrition information on novel labels by 2020.
The degree, however, is voluntary. And it will only include calories, not ingredients. Wines, spirits, and mixed drinks, meanwhile, will still be a black box for calories and beefy, as well as for added sugar, added flavors, and preservatives.
“The calories in alcohol are a concern because people may forget approximately them,” said Lindsay Moyer, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We’re used to seeing calories on nutrition facts labels for nearly any food package, but when you pick up an alcoholic drink, that information just isn’t there.”
To fill in some of the information gaps, Moyer has been tracking the calories in approved alcoholic drinks. Her findings, recently published on CSPI’s Nutrition Action website, reveal a astronomical range of calories in your favorite drinks — and even among different kinds of beer.
Beers can vary wildly in their calorie content
Some beers really are light as advertised: Most 12-ounce cans of light beers beget approximately 4 percent alcohol and 100 calories.
A beer, like Budweiser of the same size, is fairly light, too, with 5 percent alcohol and 150 calories.
But the calories start to creep up fairly a bit when you gather to Belgian brews, IPAs, and stouts, which often contain 7 to 10 percent alcohol. “When you see numbers like that, you’re getting into the 200- to 300-calorie range,” said Moyer. That’s approximately the same amount of calories as a medium McDonald’s fries or a cup of vanilla ice cream.
Mixed drinks can pack in both calories and sugar
whether you’re really watching your calorie intake, most beers are still going to be a better bet than most mixed drinks. The latter are generally,normally loaded with sugar because of the juice, tonic water, or mixer — often sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup — that produce them so drinkable.
Mixed drinks to be wary of, according to CSPI, include Olive Garden’s frozen margarita, at 340 calories — approximately the same as two and a half Budweisers or Coca-Colas.
The biggest health offender Moyer came across was the Irish beer shake from the gourmet burger chain Red Robin. Made with Guinness, chocolate, and whipped cream, the drink contains nearly 800 calories — as many as two servings of plain cheesecake.
The pain with drinks this sugary and calorific is similar to the problem with soda: They’re loaded with as much energy as many solid foods, but they don’t fill you up the same way. So people stop up taking in a lot of calories without the same satiety.
The calories in some approved wines are creeping up
There’s a puny less calorie variation between wines than between beers: Most 6-ounce glasses of red or white beget approximately 150 calories.
But there has been a general drift in wine production to sweeter types of grapes, said Gavin Lavi Sacks, a viticulture researcher at Cornell University. “It appears that average alcohol content of wine has gone up by approximately 1 percent volume by volume since the early 1990s, from approximately 12.5 percent to approximately 13.5 percent alcohol.” And, again, more alcohol means more calories in every glass.
section of this has to accomplish with climate change, Sacks said, “since the warmer temperatures would hypothetically increase sugar accumulation at a faster rate than development of other desirable flavors.” But there’s also anecdotal evidence “of winemakers seeking riper flavors, to hold pace with consumer or critic expectations.”
Nowhere is this trend toward ripe flavors more obvious than in California, which has become synonymous with wines produced using more sugary grapes. “Grape sugar content increases during the growing season, and later harvest dates result in more sugar,” said Lavi Sacks. “Higher sugar content at the start of fermentation will result in more alcohol in the finished wine.” The result: bottles that are a puny sweeter, more alcoholic — and higher in calories. Or, as one novel York Times article establish it, wine with “a dense, opaque fruitiness well suited to a nation of Pepsi drinkers.”
How to drink without gaining weight
According to the latest US dietary guidelines, alcohol can be section of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. For women, that means no more than one serving a day, and for men, no more than two.
That limit is safe for your liver and your risk of cancer and chronic disease. It also works for your waistline. One serving of any type of wine or beer probably won’t derail a healthy diet, but three or four certainly can.
whether you aren’t certain how many calories are in your favorite drink, check out the National Institutes of Health’s alcohol calories calculator for broad estimates and the searchable table below for information approximately specific brands.
As a general rule, drinks with more alcohol will carry more calories. Alcohol contains approximately 7 calories per gram, which is nearly as much as the most calorie-dense nutrient of every: beefy, which has 9 calories per gram. More alcohol in a drink means more calories. So that alcohol by volume, or ABV, metric listed on the side of your can or bottle is a safe shorthand for how calorific your beverage is relative to others. (Low-alcohol wines and session or light beers are safe options here.)
Drinks that are sweeter will also generally pack more calories. whether you beget a hankering for a mixed drink, avoid sugar- and cream-filled options and stick to those that exhaust club soda instead of syrupy mixers.
“Alternate [alcoholic drinks] with water or tonic water, and order drinks after ordering [the rest of your] meal, as alcohol may stimulate appetite and dissolve resolve,” obesity doctor Yoni Freedhoff said.
Want to dive deeper? Search the database below, compiled by Nutrition Action.