No one really enjoys dieting, and while we may be of the epicurean mindset, even us wine lovers need to count the calories once in a while. To get our New Year’s resolutions off to the right start, I’ve put together some information for wine lovers who might be wondering how wine factors into their their dieting plans…
All alcoholic beverages have calories. This includes wine. Most wines contain a very small amount of sugars – a few grams – even wines that are totally “dry.” Very sweet dessert wines contain a bit more, but overall this will still be less than 10 grams on average. You may even find a small amount of Sodium (about 1% the recommended daily amount) and even carbs (around 5 grams, or about 2% DV). But those all contribute a very small amount of calories to the overall wine experience.
A Wine’s calories are largely a factor of alcohol content. Alcohol content accounts for 80% or more of the calories in a wine. A typical glass of wine – about 4 to 5 fl oz –
will contain about 100 calories. That’s the bad news. The good news – none of the calories are from fat (hey, there’s a bright side to everything!).
Wines with Less Alcohol Have Fewer Calories – but Not by Much. If you want to get more specific, a general rule of thumb (as published on Wineintro.com) is that this formula will give you the approximate calories for any specific glass of wine: 1.6 x percentage x oz in glass = total calories. So, if you pour yourself a 5oz glass of modest Italian white (say, 12% alcohol), you’re looking at 1.6 x 12 x 5oz = 96 calories. A big ol’ honkin’ glass of powerful California Zinfandel at 15% alcohol would be 1.6 x 15 x 5oz = 120 calories. Not a huge difference, but could be significant enough for you to change your wine choice at dinner, if you’re expecting to have more than one glass but are trying to watch your weight.
If You’re on a Diet, Drink Wine in Moderation. This one seems obvious, since in effect wine is contributing the the dreaded “liquid calories” (like soda) that most dieters try to avoid. But it’s a lot tougher than you’d think. Restaurant pours of wine seldom adhere to the 4-5oz average, and some restaurants may pour you a glass nearly double that amount. Which means that glass of big ol’ honkin’ CA Zinfandel is really more like 240 calories. If you’re on a diet, tread carefully when eating out.
Don’t Binge. Another seemingly obvious recommendation, but consider this: drinking alcoholic beverages is proven to relax your inhibitions, which in turn makes you more likely to do dumb stuff. That includes taking diet-unfriendly actions like eating more, choosing to eat foods that you should avoid while on your diet, and generally begets more drinking (thus more calories). Binging on wine while on a diet is definitely NOT diet-friendly.
If You’re Drinking & Dieting, Make Lower-Calorie Wine Choices. If you love wine way too much to cut it out of your diet, go for lower calorie wine options. Dry, lighter white wines will generally provide less calories. Heavy, fortified wines, like ports, will generally have the most calories. For more information, you can view a quick table of approximate wine calorie totals here, or check out the more comprehensive wine nutritional listings at calorieking.com.
Know When to Take a Break. The bottom line: if you are dieting, you need to cut back on the wine. If you’re a contestant on Biggest Loser, then it’s probably a good idea to abstain entirely from drinking alcoholic beverages of any kind for a short period of time (until you reach a safe weight-loss milestone, for example). Sure it will suck to go without your favorite Cab, but a healthier you is more likely to be around to enjoy future great vintages of your favorite wine.