Drinking your calories this Christmas!

Celebration toast with champagne


Are you getting caught out with ‘drinking’ your calories?  If you, like me, like your coffee, I’m sure you’ve noticed the ‘Holiday Season’ festive drinks advertised for the past few weeks.  I started researching the nutritional breakdown of these fun and very popular beverages and it made for interesting reading.

So, it breaks down like this, a normal latte, whether you’re going for skimmed milk or full fat, contains approximately 12-14gms of sugar for a small, 17gms for a medium and up to 22gms for a large (20oz). The milk still has sugar regardless of the fat content and ironically, the skimmed milk version has more sugar than the full fat.  Fat equals flavour and when fat is removed, sugar tends to be added to compensate for the lack of taste.  Beware of fat free treats!

15gms is equivalent to 3 teapsoons of sugar and if you’re adding more sugar or syrup, you’re starting to really enter high calorie territory. Now, let’s take a quick look at the special drinks they bring out this time of year.  A salted caramel mocha, or anything with added flavour, syrup and whipped cream can serve you anything from 350kCals up to 500kCals and 35gms sugar up to 58gms!

Now, if one of these special drinks is your treat and you seldom have it and really enjoy it, then of course, have one and really do savour it.  However, if this is your afternoon or morning ‘fix’, then I’d seriously reconsider and think of a different option. Filter coffee or an Americano is a much better choice (and is usually a lot less expensive) with only a couple of calories and sugar gms from the added milk. Or better still, try it black.  Better still, have a cup of green or peppermint tea instead of your coffee once in a while.

The real problem with drinking calories, fat and sugar this way, is that you don’t normally think of it as ‘food’ so we tend to have something to eat as well. It’s the same with alcoholic drinks like wine and beer and sugar sweetened soda or juice, we still eat so essentially we’re doubling up on the amount of energy and sugar we’re consuming.

One glass of juice has health benefits but any more than that will just be adding to your waistline.  You’re better off eating the actual fruit so that you get the fibre that will temper the naturally occurring sugar in fruit, fructose.  Alcohol, especially beer and wine can certainly pack a calorie punch. One gram of alcohol yields 7 calories, one gram of fat is 9, so you can see how energy dense it is with no nutritional benefit.  Even if you weren’t to add any mixers or have alcohol in the form of beer or wine, you’d still creep up the calories.

One glass of red wine, 175 mls is 2 units of alcohol and approximately 150kCals. With larger wine glasses these days, it’s quite easy to go over that mark. A glass of champagne or Prosecco is slightly less volume, 125mls and less sugar so the calories are approximately 90. To reduce the calorie load, go for dry white wines, sparkling or flat and even mix your white wine with soda water for a refreshing spritzer. The pitfalls when it comes to drinking and weight gain are simply having:

  1. Too much
  2. Mixers with sugars and cocktails etc. and
  3. Too much!

The ripple effect on weight gain from alcohol continues the next day as we tend to choose bad foods when we drink and we definitely lose our willpower if we have a hangover.

So the best strategy to minimize damage is: Go for vodka and soda water or even a diet soda if need be. Have the spritzers or the bubbles, stay clear of sugary mixers and cocktails and most of all, go easy.  Figures from Alcohol Ireland state that almost 39% of drinkers binge drink on a typical drinking occasion and 24% binge drink at least once a week.

Here are some comparisons to show the calorie equivalents of alcohol and some of the better known treats!


  • Large glass (250ml) of average strength red wine = 214 calories = one bag of Cheesy Puffs.
  • One Glass of mulled wine = 106 calories and 13g sugar
  • One Irish Coffee: 210 calories, 9g Fat, 8g Sugar
  • A bottle of average strength red wine = 644 calories = 14 jaffa cakes or McDonald’s Cheeseburger and medium fries.
  • Large glass of medium dry white wine = 190 calories = two and a half digestive biscuits.
  • Bottle of medium dry white wine = 570 calories = chicken with cashew nuts and egg fried rice.
  • One pint of premium lager = 330 calories = one four ounce fillet steak
  • One pint of cider = 200 calories = one KFC chicken drumstick
  • Large Bailey’s (100ml) = 320 calories = one Snickers bar
  • One shot (25ml) of vodka or gin = 55 calories = one 25ml serving of single cream


Emma Buckley is Director of Nutrition at GourmetFuel®, one of Ireland’s leading health and nutrition companies.  GourmetFuel® offer full meal service provision, nutrition and exercise plans, taking the guesswork out of eating healthy and correctly, for both personal and corporate wellbeing.  If you’d like a free consultation with the nutrition team, contact them on 01 2938792 or visit www.gourmetfuel.com. Delivery is nationwide.