How to avoid drinking your calories over Christmas

From mulled wine to Irish coffees we find out what are the worst offending festive tipples

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 over the past few weeks. I started researching the nutritional breakdown of these fun and very popular beverages and it made for interesting reading.  

Festive coffees

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. So, beware of fat-free treats!  

As 15gms is equivalent to 3 teaspoons of sugar - and if you’re adding more sugar or syrup - you are starting to really enter high calorie territory. 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! 

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 sugar sweetened soda or juice, we still eat so essentially we’re doubling up on the amount of energy and sugar we’re consuming.

It's also worth noting, that one glass of juice has health benefits but any more than that will just be adding to your waistline.

Alcohol

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, 175mls 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.

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

Damage limitation

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:
A. Too much
B. Mixers with sugars and cocktails etc. and
C. 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.

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.

When it comes to those festive coffees - consume them as a treat rather than a daily fix. 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 grams from the added milk. Or better still, try it black. Better yet again, have a cup of green or peppermint tea instead of your coffee once in a while.

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!  GourmetFuel® caters for the individual as well as for corporate groups, so if you’d like a free consultation with the nutrition team, contact them on 01 2938799 or visit www.gourmetfuel.com. Delivery is nationwide.