Whether winter is party season or hibernation season, many of us will indulge in an alcoholic drink or two. It is not news that too much alcohol is a very bad idea for your general health, and it can also make a big hit on your waistline.

Moderation is definitely the key, but not all alcoholic drinks are created equal. Where do the calories in alcohol come from, and what is the best way to minimise them?


Alcohol is made with yeast, which converts sugar and starch from natural sources into alcohol. The calorie content is determined by the remaining starch, and what is added to the brew. There is no fat in alcohol, and pure spirits do not contain any carbs.  However, beer was originally produced for nourishment and so tends to be high in calories.

Alcohol is recognised as toxic by your body, so your liver gets to work on breaking down alcohol before dealing with anything else. This slows down release of glucose from other foods into your bloodstream. Hence the post-pub munchies and the dash for the kebab shop. Not good!


If you are trying to reduce refined sugar in your diet, there are some suitable lower-sugar alcoholic choices. Avoid the obviously sweetened drinks such as cocktails and alcopops. Sweet liqueurs are also stuffed with calories, despite their small size.

A glass of wine is a relatively low-sugar choice. A typical glass of around 175ml gives around 2g of carbs.


Clear spirits such as gin or vodka are among the lowest calorie options at about 55 calories a shot (if you keep the shots small). Watch the mixers though as this is where the calories will pile on. Opting for slimline tonic over regular tonic water will save you roughly 125 calories per drink.

Whisky comes in at about 80 calories a shot.

Wine contains about 120 calories in a glass. Most people drink wine for taste, not thirst-quenching, so that also keeps the quantity down. Add some soda water to your wine to make it last longer so you're not topping up as frequently.

A pint of beer contains about 180 calories, roughly a slice of pizza. If you're planning on having more than a couple of pints, the calories will soon stack up.

Most cocktails contain sugary fruit juices and so are very calorific. Opt for a gin and slimline tonic or a vodka and diet coke instead of a cocktail and you will save yourself hundreds of calories over the course of a night.

Make the right choices, have some alcohol free days each week and the occasional tipple need not wreck your health plans.