If you’ve ever heard the phrase “alcohol calories don’t count,” I have some bad news for you. They absolutely count — and sometimes by a not-so-insignificant amount. Drinking calories is a lot like eating calories. Your body takes in that energy, and anything it doesn’t use up, it stores, often in the form of fat.
The biggest difference is that food takes up bulk — both physically and psychologically. If you indulge a little too much at dinner, you might be more likely to pass on dessert.
Calories from alcohol, however, are sneakier. They don’t fill up as much of your mind or stomach space, making it easier to take in more calories than you mean to — sometimes a lot more than you mean to. Depending on how much is poured, just two glasses of red wine with dinner, for example, clocks in at at least 250 calories.
A couple beers after work a few times a week adds up to an extra 3,500+ calories a month. In fact, you can get more calories from a handful of cocktails at a party than many people get from an entire meal. What’s more: Unlike most food, alcohol doesn’t have many good-for-you nutrients like vitamins or minerals, meaning you take in tons of calories but get little to no nutritional benefit in return.
While drinking all those empty calories might not break the scale right away, it can really add up over time. Gain too much weight, and you could become at risk for a whole range of health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure, or even cancer — which is why knowing what you’re drinking is an important part of staying healthy. Here’s a guide for how many calories are in some of the most popular drinks.
Average beer (12 ounces): 153 Average light beer (12 ounces): 103 Bud Light (12 ounces): 110 Coors Light (12 ounces): 102 Miller Lite (12 ounces): 96
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good drink now and then — just be smart about it. Eat food before or while drinking to keep you from filling up on alcohol alone. Opt for lower-calorie options, like using diet cola instead of full-sugar soda in your rum and coke, or order a “light” beer instead of a regular one.
Alternate alcoholic beverages with water to keep your calorie count low and (bonus!) stay hydrated. Standard serving sizes for alcohol are roughly 12 ounces for a beer, 4-5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of liquor — but in reality, drink sizes tend to be much bigger than that. Ask for smaller portions to help prevent you from taking in more than you intend to. Or better yet, do some combination (or all!) of the above. Your waistline will thank you.