Calories, Carbs and More

August 30, 2012

Wondering what's in your favorite adult beverages? Here are some basics you need to know about calories, carbs and alcohol equivalence of your favorite drinks

Wondering what’s in your beverage? Here’s SupermarketGuru's guide to the calories, carbohydrates and alcohol content in your favorite drinks; so you can make a more informed choice about what to serve, order, and what to skip, to stick with your diet, avoid the unwanted extras, and know what’s safe.

The calorie count in our favorite beverages comes from the alcohol itself - pure alcohol contains roughly 7 calories per gram - and the mixers, which are usually fruit juice, composed mostly of carbohydrates clock in at roughly 4 calories per gram.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a standard drink is equal to 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:
12 ounces of beer
8 ounces of malt liquor
5 ounces of wine
1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey)

Now back to the calorie count. As a rough guide, a glass of wine (5 oz), or a shot of liquor contains somewhere between 100 to 125 calories, while dessert wine like sherry or port have around 150 calories and more than 12 grams of carbohydrates (for a 3.5 oz serving). Liqueurs contain between 175 to 250 calories per 2.5 oz serving and anywhere from 12 to 40 grams of carbohydrates: the sweeter the taste, the higher the calories and carbohydrates. Beer contains anywhere from 120 to 200 calories per 12 oz serving, unless otherwise marked as light (approximately 110 calories) or other labeling.

So a good calorie count and very low carb option is hard liquor, but watch your mixer – unless you’re going for club soda or tonic (10 calories per fluid ounce) – juice or regular soda will double your calories at least (diet soda won’t, but does contain artificial sweeteners).

Wine might be your best bet, because along with those fewer calories you are actually getting some health benefits too; in moderation that is! But, if you’re counting calories the same rule applies to wine as to liquor – the sweeter the taste, the denser the calorie count.

Dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis or Chardonnay have roughly 550 calories per bottle, therefore 110 per glass (5 oz) and 3 grams of carbohydrates.

Dry champagne or dry sparkling wine has about 116 calories and 4.5 oz carbohydrates in a 5 oz glass, and a Reisling, Chenin Blanc (‘off dry’) or White Zinfandel 118 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates.

A sweet wine like Muscat will have around 130 calories and 8 grams of carbohydrates, while reds like Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, Red Zinfandel and Bordeaux contain approximately 115 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. Burgundy is a little higher with 120 calories and 5.5 grams of carbohydrates.

In terms of alcohol content, is beer or wine safer to drink than liquor? The CDC says, no. One 12 ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5 ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounce shot of liquor. It is the amount of alcohol consumed that affects a person most, not the type of alcoholic drink.

The calorie and carbohydrate counts are all approximate and one of the most important factors to take into account when drinking is the size of the glass – the variety of shapes and sizes of glasses out there makes it almost impossible to calorie count with any real accuracy. Ask the server and try and keep count and enjoy in moderation.