Yesterday Decanter.com published an article on the suggested calorie counts on wine labels in the UK.
Just over a year ago, another UK drinks magazine, The Drinks Business, reported on the UK Government working with leading retailers such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s to change labelling on alcoholic drinks to display the number of calories they contain. The idea? To discourage people from binge drinking and the report stated: “Ministers are hoping that displaying the calorie content in beers, wines and spirits could encourage those who are watching their weight to drink less.”
With February almost at an end and New Year’s Resolutions already a thing of the past, once again we realise that there are no quick fixes and living a healthy lifestyle lies in better everyday choices. The reality is however that regardless of your good intentions on a Monday morning, by the evening you feel like a drink and after the drink, steamed fish and salad suddenly look less attractive.
So, if you are going to have that drink, and possibly an extra scoop of parmesan over your pasta afterwards…, which one should you choose for the lowest calories – Merlot or Margarita?
Red wine is usually higher in kilojoules than white – mainly because it tends to be higher in alcohol. Alcohol contains 29kJ per gram. Where white wine contains around 12% alcohol, reds are in the vicinity of 13% (and in South Africa where we have plenty of sunshine, 14% alcohol on red wine is very possible).
Approximate kilojoule values for wines:
|Red Wine (such as Merlot)
|Dry fortified wine such as Sherry
|Unlikely that you will have a cup of Sherry?
|Sweet fortified dessert wine such as Port
Remember that a glass of wine is not always a glass of wine. Nowadays we use beautiful big glasses to aerate the wine, but we often pour quite a bit more than the “normal” 125ml serving.
And even though it has more kilojoules per unit, champagne is usually served in a smaller glass than wine, so if you can stick to one glass of champagne or dry sparkling wine, the kilojoules would be less than for a bigger volume glass of wine.
Nothing gets a party started like a line-up of beautifully presented cocktails. They are however loaded with kilojoules, not to mention alcohol! Most contain multiple types of alcohol and the mixers are often creamy or really sweet, adding to the kilojoule value – probably why they taste so good to begin with.
As a rule, the fewer ingredients in a cocktail, the lower the kilojoule count.
Approximate Kilojoule values for cocktails:
|Average per Serving
|Long Island Ice Tea
A trendy alternative to kilojoule-loaded traditional cocktails is to mix a Wine Cocktail – as we do at Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards. With lower alcohol, these are significantly lower in kilojoules and will keep you partying for long anyway.
Spirits are easiest to manage as most are similar in kilojoule count and a measure is more or less 523kJ. Mixing them with high-sugar sodas is the danger and it is much better to mix spirits with diet sodas and health-wise, mixing them with soda water or plain water is definitely the way to go. Choosing soda or plain water will save you around 419kJ per drink!
|Energy value (kj)
|Castle Milk Stout
|Low alcohol beer (Woolworths)
|Dry white or red wine
|Semi-Sweet white wine
|Dark Spirits (whisky, brandy, rum)
|White Spirits (gin, vodka)
|Van der Hum (Bols)
|Tonic, Dry Lemon
|Coca Cola, lemonade
|Lite Cool Drinks
|Coffee/Tea with 2 tsp of sugar and low-fat milk
Keep in mind:
- Drink water in between drinks. Not only will it help reduce your kilojoule intake, but you will help prevent a foggy head the next morning, so you can get up for that early morning spinning class or a round of golf.
- Eat something. And yes, we all prefer to nibble on something fatty and salty, but try these clever alternatives. Swop Peanuts (733kJ/13g fat per 25g) with a Bombay mix (544kJ/9g fat per 25g) or opt for Pretzels (385kJ/0.5g fat per 25g) versus the real trouble maker, Chips (1017kJ/13g fat per 25g).
- The sweeter a drink, the more kilojoules it is likely to contain.
- Serving size is important. Even if 100ml of beer contains fewer kilojoules than 100ml of wine, you are more likely to drink a larger glass of beer than wine.
So, to answer my question: Merlot or Margarita? Go for the Merlot.