/ Food & Drink, Health

Calorie labelling for alcoholic drinks – will you take notice?

Last week the Royal Society for Public Health recommended labelling for calories in alcohol to help tackle the obesity crisis. But would you check the calories before pouring that glass of wine?

I for one would like to see this happen. I’m so used to seeing calorie labelling on packaged food at supermarkets, when grabbing a sandwich for lunch, on packets of crisps and on soft drinks in bottles and cans.

I know how many calories are in a can of coke so why shouldn’t I know how many are in a vodka and coke?

Or a gin and tonic, and whether I’d be better off (calorie wise) opting for a glass of wine.

What’s to lose?

I’m not a total killjoy, I like wine and spirits but I just can’t see the downside of calorie labelling alcoholic drinks (apart from for the drinks industry). If I choose to, I can ignore the information, the same way I can if I want a slice of cake.

If it changes my habits in that it causes me to drink less that must be a benefit, no? Both in terms of weight gain and alcohol consumption. Surely it’s all about making informed choices?

I know people who think they are being careful about what they eat, shunning bread and other carbs but happily drink several glasses of wine on a night out.

Calories in alcohol: an inconvenient truth

Do you know that a large 250ml glass of wine contains around the same number of calories as a Mars bar? Or that a pint of beer and a packet of crisps contain a similar number of calories? It’s not uncommon for people to drink a couple of large glasses of wine or have three pints on a night out but would they eat 2 Mars bars or 3 packets of crisps?

I think calorie labelling will make many people think twice before indulging in that third or fourth drink or even consider swapping for a lower calorie option. While I appreciate that it’s not only about calories and am fully aware of the harmful effects of binge drinking, the study estimated that around 10% of an adults’ calorie intake comes from alcohol – to me that sounds huge.

Do you think calorie labelling alcoholic drinks will bring health benefits? Will it change your habits to consuming alcoholic drinks, or will you be able to ignore it and continue pouring?


If people are drinking so much alcohol that it makes them fat, perhaps they are ignoring guidelines on alcohol intake.

My priority would be for alcoholic drinks to be provided with an ingredient list, and the same goes for foods that currently have no ingredient list or nutritional information.

Sophie Gilbert says:
5 November 2014

Yes, ingredients would be my priority too. If calories are an added piece of info, fine.

I see nothing wrong and would consider it useful to know roughly how many calories are in anything I drink. It allow me to make choices and the lack of dietery information on some foods is annoying.
My favourite soft drink range has only recently started providing this information on the bottles !

Of course its not just the alcohol but also the sugar that provides the calories – dry wine has 10% less calories than a medium dry wine.

Oh give over. This is just the New Prohibitionists finding yet another way of making alcohol seem undesirable, and they won’t shut up until there’s a total ban and we all join them in their lives of judgemental misery.

Everyone knows what a beer gut is and only the clueless would imagine it got there for some reason other than that fattening qualities of the drinks consumed.

I totally agree with those who say to drink what you like in moderation.. Everyone knows that if you drink too much you will get really drunk and make a fool of yourself OR WORSE.. It is not
“manly” just idiotic!!! Everything in moderation!!!

Alcohol consumption for some people is quite an emotive subject in a country with a well established drinking culture that dates back many years. A powerful addictive drug that if taken in excess can have devastating consequences on ones health both physical and mental by interfering with ones rational thought processes, retarding emotional growth, changing ones personality over the long term and destroying relationships by affecting everyone who comes into contact with you.

Recent research however has discovered a genetic gene mutation namely Gabrb1 connected to the GABA system in the region of the brain that controls pleasureable emotions and reward so that calorie consumption is easier to limit for some and less easy for others, especially in cases where there is a family history of alcoholism. If interested you can read more by logging on to Newcastle University Press Office – ‘A gene mutatation for excessive drinking found.’

Young people in particular who over-imbibe today should be made aware of the danger also to their physical health and anything that is instrumental in helping them to control their intake such as calorie labelling surely has to be a good thing, but alas it may be too strong a habit to break for the older generation who have come to rely upon it’s comforting effects and for whom guidelines are for those who “always drink more than they do”.

Excellent information Beryl. I think I may be more mouse than man as I also prefer waterish to alcohol.

I am all in favour of calories being declared on drinks as the damage that alcohol can do is far-reaching and can now start at a very early age. I am shocked that a glass of wine can equal a Mars Bar in calorie content and I would think 96% of the population would have the same response.


I have chosen WebMD as it also alludes to gut bacteria as having an influence on health at the end of the article.

This will just prove how little I drink, but do they even include units of alcohol on bottles/cans yet ?

I have taken no interest in th calorie content of what I consume – i don’t know my recommended daily allowance nor what different foods contain. I just, I believe, consume a balanced diet in sensible quantity that I have developed over the years. I would, however, think about my diet if I started to put on excess, or lose, weight.

One glass of wine = 1 can of coke = one slice of Madeira cake = fresh cream eclair, I discover. Out of these I never consume Coke.

If people are really interested in their calorie intake they can easily find the information on line. If they are not, are they going to bother reading the nutritional information on a bottle, and understand what it means? And how many more drinks are bought “loose” – in a restaurant, bar or pub? Should the proprietor put up a long list of calories? And what about labelling the restaurant calorie content of all their dishes?

I jost pose the question as to how realistic all this is in practice.

Should you venture into a Wetherspoon’s you’ll find that they give the calorific value of all their dishes down to the nearest kcal. One can only assume that their portion control is precise down to the nearest gram, and nothing gets lost between microwave and plate. The same logic would have car manufacturers quoting mpg down to the nearest yard.

Even more important, Wetherspoon seems to provide smaller portions than most other pubs. Perhaps other pubs and fast food places should follow their example, irrespective of whether or not alcohol is served.

I absolutely agree agree about portion sizes being given to the nearest gram. Approximate figures are easier to compare, and the same applies to the number of Calories or kJ.

Perhaps Wetherspoons might be criticised for ripping us off by providing smaller portions – in a different context of course 🙂

I have no idea what my daily calorie intake should be, so individual calorie scores would be pretty meaningless to me. However, if someone has an intake problem and knows what they need to consume then putting calories on every item to be consumed will no doubt be of use – no issue with that. I do wonder how many people actually calculate their total daily or weekly intake this way – a question I’d be interested to hear the answer to.

It is fact that calories requirement vary for job and no doubt there may be weather effects and differences due to size. AFAIR is it the salt intake average is based on what is desirable for a 5ft 3″ female.

DO we need more calories in winter when our body presumably burns more?

I agree with this and your pevious post Malcolm, most people dont need to know accurately the calorie count of everything they eat.
For those wanting to loose some weight by reducing their intakea sensible amount being able to compare values allows for decisions i.e. this pizza has a lot less calories than that ( less cheese) or I’ll trade that extra glass of wine for an eclair.
Personally I would hate restaurants to have to display dietary info on all their meals.

I don’t think you can generalise about energy requirements in summer and winter, Dieseltaylor. Many people are much more active in summer than in winter, but certainly not everyone.

Perhaps the amount of salt we need varies with temperature. I consume little salt most of the year but enjoy salty snacks when it is very hot. I also prefer non-alcoholic drinks when it is hot.

AlanEd says:
6 November 2014

Just like all the other way over the top medical guidelines I will totally ignore this latest scare story from the medics and the nanny government.

The same anti smoking brigade have true to form decided to take on the alcohol users and obese people.If we let them it will be people wearing purple trousers and green hair.Stand up against these killjoys who want to turn us into obedient zombies.I am all for educating people with sound advice but how many times have we been told this or that is bad for us only to be told no it’s actually ok.The scientific group change their minds like they change their underwear.One day they will tell us oh smoking is beneficial we got it wrong.They never tell you that the biggest cause of cancer is breathing in air do they but it’s true.We are all going to die and cancer for the reason I have stated will always be the biggest killer.Do you really want to live to 100 if you cannot drink alcohol or have a T-bone steak or something that you like.Watch out they will tell you sex is bad for you next.

Anything in excess is bad for you, that is precisely the reason why researches spend their whole lives dedicated to delving into the pros and cons of the causes of cancer, diabetes, coronary heart disease, liver damage etc.

23.1% of UK citizens are currently obese compared to 15.5% in the rest if the EU which indicates to me that a quarter of people in this country are not taking responsibility for their own health. That is their prerogative of course but it is worthwhile taking a look at a Wikipedia report on ‘Obesity in the UK.’ which highlights the dangers of overeating and drinking to excess.

I can remember my grandfather in his infinite wisdom saying to me when I was a teenager many years ago “Always treat your body as if it were a Rolls Royce, it’s the only one you will ever have.” He lived until the age of 87 and his wise words have remained with me ever since.

Carol Burgess says:
7 November 2014

I don’t count calories, any calories! If you do then all you need to know is that all alcohol calories are EMPTY CALORIES and do you no good whatsoever. Social drinker!