Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to give up alcohol, including wine, to get the body you want and deserve. But there are some clear strategies to use when picking your glass if you’re trying to shed excess pounds.
Without handy nutritional data on your bottle (the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require it on alcohol), here’s a guide for drinking wine while trying to lose weight:
As with any food or drink you consume, it’s important to know where the calories in your wine are coming from. Wine is comprised of water, alcohol, carbohydrates, as well as vitamins and minerals like: phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins (B6, B2) antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols. The calories in wine come from two sources: alcohol and carbohydrates.
Our body breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose, which is used up almost immediately to fuel our body, or stored as glycogen for later use. However, if we consume more carbohydrates than our bodies actually need, our bodies will store them as fat. Carbohydrates (which in wine are residual sugar) provide 4 calories per gram, and alcohol provides 7 calories per gram — alcohol is almost two times as calorically dense as carbohydrates. Therefore, wines that contain more alcohol, regardless of their sweetness, end up being more caloric. This brings us to the next item, the ABV …
Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
To determine how many calories your glass packs, ABV is one of the most crucial factors to consider. This percentage, which you’ve likely noticed on your wine bottles, refers to the volume of alcohol, or ethanol, in your wine. The ABV in wine can vary widely, and can range from as low as 6 percent to as high as 23 percent, but the key is to remember that the higher the ABV your wine possesses, the more caloric it is. For example, a typical glass of wine with an ABV between 9 and 12 percent has about 110 to 140 calories, while a glass of wine with an ABV of 15 to 20 percent can contain as many as 180 to 220 calories.
If you’re drinking a wine with higher ABV, consider halving your portion to reduce caloric intake. That’s because, as with all foods and drinks you put into your body, it’s important to consider the serving size of your wine when you’re dieting.
Each average wine bottle contains five 5-ounce pours. However, glass size and shape, as well as the pour of the serving person can vary from place to place. U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which are evidence-based recommendations on food and drink consumption, describe one alcoholic drink-equivalent as 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol, which in the case of wine corresponds to 5 fluid ounces of 12 percent ABV wine. The DGA also recommend women stick to one drink per day and men consume no more than two drinks per day. So, opting for a 5-ounce glass of vino is a smart way to stay in control of how many calories you are consuming with each serving.
Type of wine
The calories in your glass also depend on the variety of wine you sip. Here, again, ABV is key. If you’re trying to whittle your waistline, steer clear of higher ABV wines like zinfandel, shiraz, muscat, port, sweet sherry, chardonnay and viognier — and opt for lower ABV varieties such as riesling, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, red Bordeaux and Beaujolai instead. To simplify things even further, note the origin of the wine, which is usually included on the front label of your bottle. European wines tend to be lower in alcohol content and therefore contain fewer calories than wines from other parts of the world. For more information, check out wine-searcher.com and winefolly.com, two excellent wine research sources.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.