One week ago I attended a South African Council of Business Women breakfast at the beautiful Bauhenia guesthouse in Potchefstroom and I shared my tips and insight on healthy food preparation and easy substitutions to make meals and desserts healthier.

I demonstrated the calorie difference between common recipes and their healthier substitutions with the number of steps one would have to walk additionally in order to burn off the excess calories if an unhealthier food preparation method was chosen. A question I was asked by some of the ladies attending the event led me to write this article. The question was “How much extra steps do they have to walk in order to drink one glass of wine?”.

I should state that you cannot ‘out-exercise’ a bad diet. Good nutrition and physical activity always go hand-in-hand and that moderate alcohol consumption as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle is allowed.

In this article, I will explore the nutritional aspects of alcohol (beer, cocktails and wine) and what that means for the general public. Before you pour yourself a glass of wine, read this…

Alcohol may have beneficial health effects when consumed in moderation. Red wine specifically contains antioxidant components called resveratrol, which aids in cancer prevention, decreases inflammation and prevents LDL cholesterol oxidation and blood clot formation.

The lowest all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality occurs at an intake of one to two drinks per day. Morbidity and mortality are highest among those drinking large amounts of alcohol.

One drink counts as:

  • 340mL beer
  • 1 tot of spirits (brandy, whisky, gin, cane spirits)
  • 1 glass of white or dry red wine (125mL)
  • 1 small glass of sherry (60mL)

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans stated:

    • Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, pregnant and Iactating women, children and adolescents under the age of 18, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions (especially liver conditions).
    • Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation–defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
    • Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.

If you suspect that you or someone you know might have a problem, please visit this website www.aasouthafrica.org.za or phone 0861 435 722.

Now, let us compare the different alcoholic beverages with one another!
*600kJ = 2000 steps = 1.6km

 

Beer

Image source: NutritionalsolutionsRD, 2015.

When looking at the kilojoule content of these different beers, it is easy to understand why a lot of male beer-lovers have beer-bellies. The best choice of these would be the options first row, but remember that ‘better’ doesn’t translate into unlimited… Two Castle Lights will do the same ‘kilojoule damage’ as one Redds Bold.

 

Cocktails

Image source: NutritionalsolutionsRD, 2015.

Ladies night and cocktail hour can be detrimental to a diet, but it needn’t be. With some easy substitutions you can enjoy your favourite drinks with the girls without the kilojoules.

  • If cocktails are mixed with fruit juice, such as the vodka cranberry, instead of using a full cup of juice, only use just a splash of it and dilute with soda water or water and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • Linking perfectly with the above mentioned tip; when it comes to carbonation, zero-calorie sparkling water is the way to go. Not only will you slash calories, you’ll avoid the added sodium found in club soda, or the high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colours that give tonic and ginger ale their distinctive taste. Also Substitute the normal tonic water to sugar free tonic water.
  • Choose a smarter sweetener. A lot of the tastiest (and highest kilojoule) cocktails call for simple syrup, which is made by combining equal parts sugar and water. To avoid added calories and the inevitable spike in blood-glucose level, make your own calorie-free simple syrup using all-natural stevia. Simply dissolve one-part stevia in four parts boiling water, cool, and use as you would regular simple syrup.
  • There’s nothing like fresh herbs to take a drink up a notch — and they’re not limited to just the mojito. Add herbs whenever possible to up the drink’s nutrition stats and flavour. Upgrade your drink with blood-sugar stabilizing basil or pour yourself a mint julep.
  • If possible, choose sangria. By naturally adding flavor and sweetness to your drink with pieces of fruit you can skip artificially flavoured alcohols and mixers. Plus, the fruit’s fiber may help you resist an extra order of French fries.

Wine

Image source: NutritionalsolutionsRD, 2015.

To answer the question about the number of steps per glass of wine;

  • 150mL white wine = 1700 steps = 1.36km
  • 150mL red wine = 1743 steps = 1.39km

The smart wine drinkers guide

  • Port, muscadel and dessert wine are extremely high in sugar and therefore very high in energy, beware of the portion size.
  • Be conscious of the size of your wine glass as some are enormous and can easily hold half a 750ml bottle of wine, leading to unintentional overconsumption. Try to stick to smaller glasses.
  • A wine spritzer cuts the kilojoules in half; mix half dry wine and half soda water over ice. The kilojoule content will roughly be about 223kJ, a reduction of almost 50%!
  • Read the label and look for wines with a lower alcohol percentage.
  • Descending order of kilojoule content: Dessert wines (highest), Champagne, Sweet wine, Dry white, Light wine (lowest).

Hints to control your kilojoules when consuming alcoholic beverages

  • Start your evening with a low-calorie soft drink or a tall glass of water with lemon – never quench your thirst with alcohol!
  • Substitute some alcoholic drinks for non-alcoholic drinks such as low calorie squashes with soda water, sparkling water or adding fresh mint and lime to your drink.
  • Choose drinks which have a lower alcohol percentage and/ or lower calorie drinks
  • Reduce volumes of alcohol by using smaller glasses and adding lots of ice to drinks
  • If you drink alcohol, drink it sensibly and with food
  • Remember you can always say “No thank you”
  • Don’t drink and drive

If you have any questions about anything I mentioned above or a specific nutritional topic you would like to know more about, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Retha Booyens

Sources:
NutritionalsolutionsRD. 2015. The Low-Down on Skinny Summer Sips. Date of access: 2016/09/13. https://nutritionalsolutionsrd.wordpress.com/2015/11/24/the-low-down-on-skinny-summer-sips/
Mahan KL, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. 2012. Krause’s Food & Nutrition care Process: Appendix 38. 13th Edition. Philadelphia, Saunders.
Whitney E, Rolfes SR. 2010. Understanding nutrition. 12th Edition. Cengage Learning.

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