With summer in full swing, looking good in our swimsuits is of the utmost importance. For many of us this means exercising more and watching calories. When it comes to calories, your favourite alcoholic imbibe can be problematic.
Regardless of whether you prefer wine, beer, or spirits, the fact of the matter is they all contain calories, some more than others. First of all, let’s understand that alcohol, in general, contains about seven calories per gram. The more alcohol a drink has, the more calories are in it. If the drink is sweet or has added mixers containing sugar, the calorie count increases. If you indulge in more than one drink, then the calories add up further.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to dull your “buzz” here. I’m just stating the facts. The other option of course is “light” drinks. These are beverages (wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, etc.) that have reduced alcohol, calories, and sometimes carbs. There are many on the market.
Let’s talk wine first. Today’s average alcohol in wine is 13.5 to 14.5 per cent. That’s a lot of hidden calories. Two main methods exist for reducing alcohol in wine: the spinning cone and reverse osmosis, and I’m not going into details about how these work here. Of course there are wine selections out there that naturally have less alcohol with no manipulation involved to make them so. Those grown in cooler climates and higher altitudes, and certain wine styles and wine regions are known for generally producing lower alcohol wines. Vinho Verde from Portugal, Trocken (dry) style German whites, Hunter valley Semillon from Australia, Prosecco from northern Italy, Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley, and Beaujolais, also from France, are a few examples that are 12 per cent or less.
If you must go for a light wine, a relatively new phenomenon, many producers are creating them. Skinny Grape is one such example. As for the taste of these manipulated wines, I personally have not had any that could stand up to the real thing.
How about beer? Generally, the fuller, richer the brew and more alcohol it contains, the more the calories. That said, the beer industry has long made light beer with great success, especially when it comes to pilsners and lagers.
Several methods exist to make a beer “light”: higher fermentation temperatures, ways of handling the barley mash, the use of rice and wheat, the use of specific enzymes, or simply watering it down. Regarding flavour, I personally find “light” beer generally maintains much more of the flavour of the original than does its counterpart in wine. In fact, there is even non-alcoholic beer on the market, containing less than 0.5 per cent. The alcohol is usually removed after the brewing process by such things as vacuum distillation, reverse osmosis, evaporation, or by the removal of yeast before fermentation is complete. One of my favourites that contains no alcohol whatsoever is Becks.
Finally, there are spirits. Although spirits contain more calories because of the higher alcohol, it’s really the mixers in cocktails and such that add the most calories. If you’re looking for light versions, products such as Skinny Girl exist. These preassembled cocktails and sprits are naturally sweetened with lower calories and reduced alcohol, and are very popular today. Of course, if you’re into liqueurs that contain added sugar or cream, then the calories are through the roof.
The bottom line here is this. You could easily vie for any of these light imbibes. Just keep in mind that because they are light, you still can’t go overboard drinking them excessively or their calorie reduced concept, not to mention alcohol content, is shot. Whether you go “light” or not, the best approach is to simply limit your consumption, stick to those that aren’t sweet and, if using a mixer, make it a sugar-free one or use soda water or plain water.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator and judge
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