How many calories are your favourite festive drinks racking up?

·7-min read
Christmas drinking can be calorific. (Getty Images)
Christmas drinking can be calorific. (Getty Images)

Christmas is often considered to be "the most wonderful time of the year," - but for some it's often the booziest. 

While the festive season is a good time to clink glasses with friends and family, if you're prone to celebrating with one too many Mince Pie Martinis, the festive season could be putting the brakes on your healthy lifestyle goals. 

That's partly because alcohol is extremely calorie-rich, containing seven calories per gram, according to the NHS

"Wine, beer, cider, spirits and many more of our favourite drinks are made from natural starch and sugar," the site explains. "Fermentation (and distillation for certain drinks) is used to produce the alcohol content."

This is why alcohol contains lots of calories. And that's without the additional calories, which come in the form of festive mixers, such as lemonade or coke.

So as well as having other health impacts, regularly sinking the Snowballs could have a noticeable effect on your waistline this Christmas, in part because the calories from alcohol are considered to be empty calories, as they do not help the body meet its nutritional needs.

Add to that the fact that people typically consume a lot more alcoholic drinks during the party season, which can then contribute to a rise in our regular daily calorie intake.

Read more: How to cut down on alcohol this Christmas, without missing out

Champagne is actually one of the more low-cal Christmas drinks. (Getty Images)
Champagne is actually one of the more low-cal Christmas drinks. (Getty Images)

A British study previously found that on the heaviest drinking day of the week, calories from alcoholic drinks made up 19% and 27% of the recommended daily calorie intake for women and men, respectively.

And that was just on a regular week, not during the party season. 

While Christmas is a time for being merry, not calorie counting, being aware of what’s in our much-loved seasonal drinks can help prevent us from overdoing it.

Read more: How drinking alcohol affects your body and mind

The calories in our favourite festive tipples

"The festive period is often a time for over-consuming on alcohol. People don’t always consume just one, so the calories can really stack up," explains nutritionist Jenna Hope.

But the calories vary enormously depending on the festive drink you're opting for. 

"One beer contains 365kcals, one small glass of wine (175ml) contains around 160kcal and one single serving of spirits contains around 60kcals," she adds. 

"Meanwhile pre-mixed festive cocktails also contain a large number of calories due to high sugar mixers."

Festive drinks are often high in sugars and fats too. 

"For example, festive creamy cocktails can contain around 400kcals per serving. Mulled wine is another festive favourite and can be particularly high in sugar and contain around 250kcals per glass," she adds. 

Thankfully by making some smarter choices at the bar this Christmas, you might just be able to weigh up whether that glass of mulled wine is really worth the calorific damage.

Christmas table setting with holiday decorations in a gold color. New Year celebration. A bottle and glass of champagne
Glass of champers, darling? That's 86 calories, enjoy! (Getty Images)

Champagne

If you're planning to push the boat out and toast the festive season with a glass of the fine stuff, you'll likely be sinking around 86 calories per 125ml glass. 

Prosecco

Prosecco is often considered to be a lower calorie option to its festive fizz counterparts, but according to Drink Aware a 125ml glass usually contains around 86 calories, the same as a glass of champers.

For a lower calorie hit ‘Skinny Prosecco’ products are also available and have around 67 calories per glass.

Bucks Fizz

Starting your Christmas day with a glass of Bucks Fizz? It's worth noting that while the alcohol content will be reduced, the calorie content is similar to that of a glass of Prosecco at around 67 calories. 

Read more: Aldi's popular gin, beer and wine advent calendars are now on sale

Who doesn't love a Baileys at Christmas? (Getty Images)
Who doesn't love a Baileys at Christmas? (Getty Images)

Baileys

Who doesn't love a glass of Baileys at Christmas/the entire winter? But a glass of the creamy stuff can certainly clock up the calories. 

To cut them, you could try switching to the vegan version. According to Jacques Scott Wines and Spirits a glass of Bailey’s Almande is just 67 calories compared to the 164 calories in a glass of regular Baileys. What's more it is gluten-free and dairy-free with very low carbs. 

Mulled wine

According to Weight Loss Resources , a small glass of mulled wine (120ml) could contain around 230 calories.

"Where possible, try making your own with less sugar and using your own spices rather than a pre-made bottle," suggests Hope. 

Eggnog

While you may think of the creamy drink as an American thing, it is thought that eggnog originated in Britain, and became popular over the Christmas period because of its warm temperature and seasonal seasonings (try saying that after a few mulled wines!). 

Because it is made with milk, egg and sugar, eggnog is one of the most indulgent Christmas drinks and contains a pretty hefty 350 calories - more if you throw in a shot of alcohol.

Creamy Christmas cocktails could clock up the calories. (Getty Images)
Creamy Christmas cocktails could clock up the calories. (Getty Images)

Cider

Seasonal drinks aren't for everyone, and if your festive drink of choice remains a pint of cider you could be sinking around 210 calories, as many as a sugared donut, according to Drink Aware

Beer

While not traditionally a festive drink, if you're sticking to your normal pint this Christmas you can still expect to clock up the calories. According to Drink Aware some pints of lager can contain 180 calories, the equivalent to a slice of pizza. 

Meanwhlie Christmas stouts and ales can be as calorific as a whole bagel (around 250 calories).

Watch: Three Christmas cocktail ideas. 

Brandy 

Leaving a warming glass of warming brandy out for Father Christmas? A 50ml measure will mean he’ll be taking on about 103.5 calories. 

And at around 40% ABV, he’ll likely not be able to drive the sleigh after a few trips down the chimney. 

Gin and tonic

While not confined to festive drinking, there are various festive flavours of gin around this time of year, with each 25ml measure adding up to 97 calories.  

To reduce your calorie intake, Drink Aware suggests trying tonic water, ice and lemon mixed in a glass, which can give you a gin and tonic-style taste without the alcohol. 

Plus, premium alcohol-free ‘spirits’ are now growing in popularity, and make a great base for alcohol-free cocktails.

Snowball

If you're looking to sup a Snowball this season, you'll consume about 117 calories in a 120ml glass.

Make your own mulled wine to reduce the calories. (Getty Images)
Make your own mulled wine to reduce the calories. (Getty Images)

How to reduce your alcohol calorie intake this Christmas

Drink Plenty

According to dietician Helen Bond even during the winter months it is important to drink plenty of fluids (6 – 8 glasses a day) to stay hydrated and make sure you’re not relying on alcoholic drinks to quench your thirst. 

"Water is best – it is calorie and sugar free, so good for waistlines and teeth.

"Lower fat milks, tea and coffee (without added sugar or syrups), and sugar-free squash also count towards fluid intakes," she adds. 

Experiment with sugar and calorie-free drinks

There are 11 different low- and no-calorie sweeteners approved for use in the UK, including familiar ones such as acesulfame K, aspartame, sucralose, and stevia. 

"Each has its own unique taste profile," explains Bond. "Try to experiment with different low- and sugar-free soft drink brands to see what option – or combination – is most appealing."

Add natural freshness

Mix up your festive drinks flavours by adding something fresh. "Lemon and lime wedges, mint and basil leaves, cucumber slices or berries can make drinks taste amazing, without adding extra calories or sugar," explains Bond.  

"Frozen festive fruit is also great way to add vitamins and a punchy zing this holiday season and it has the added bonus of keeping your drinks cool too."

Making home made gin and tonic
Throw in some fruit for a little health hit. (Getty Images)

Get creative with festive cocktail mixers

"If you want a festive tipple lower in free sugars and calories, why not try making your own?" suggests Bond.

"You can normally halve the sugar content of classic festive cocktails by using a low-or-no calorie granulated sweetener."

Have a few alcohol-free days per week

As alcoholic drinks contain empty calories, it is best to avoid consuming them every day, no matter how many Christmas parties you're invited to. 

Swap out the syrups

"Try muddling fresh fruits, fresh herbs and fresh spices to optimise flavour rather than using flavoured syrups or high sugar mixers," suggests Hope. 

If you're worried that your drinking is unhealthy, you can visit drinkaware.co.uk to get more information, or chat to a professional.

Watch: How to make boozy Malteser Hot Chocolate

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