Know What’s in Your Drinks: Calories, Sugar, Carbs and More

December 02, 2015

Planning on attending holiday parties this season? With this guide, 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.

December is here and that means indulgent holiday parties are in full swing. In order to be better prepared, here is SupermarketGuru's guide to your beverages, so you know exactly what’s in your drinks this holiday season from calories to sugar and carbs and of course alcohol content.

With this guide, 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 alcohol itself is the biggest contributor of calories. 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 – but don’t forget the sugar content!

According to the 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 (gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey) 

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 carbs (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 carbs. Beer contains anywhere from 120 to 200 calories per 12 oz. serving, unless otherwise marked as light (approximately 110 calories) and usually less than 1 gram of sugar. 

What’s your best option? With a lower calorie count and very low carbs, hard liquor is a good option, 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).

You might want to choose wine, because along with 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 higher the calorie count. 

Dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis or Chardonnay have roughly 550 calories per bottle, and 110 per glass (5 oz) and 3 grams of carbs. And usually about 1.5 grams of sugar per serving.

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, 8 grams of carbohydrates and up to 8 grams of sugar!, while reds like Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, Red Zinfandel and Bordeaux contain approximately 115 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates with only 1 gram of sugar. 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 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 makes it almost impossible to calorie count with any real accuracy. Ask the server and try and keep count and of course, enjoy in moderation.