How Many Calories are in Drinks
When we think about calories, most of us associate them with food and what we eat at meals or for snacks.
However, depending on what you drink, you may also be consuming extra calories in whatever you wash your food down with.
In this article, we look at different types of drinks and how calories can hide in some of the UK’s most popular choices.
How many calories in a fizzy drink?
This can be quite a difficult question to answer, as it isn’t the fact that a drink is fizzy that can cause some to have a high calorific value.
Instead, it’s the sugar content that can make the calorie content of fizzy drinks skyrocket.
In fact, a regular 330ml can of Coca Cola contains 139 calories (more than a 2 finger KitKat) and 35g of sugar.
This is similar to making a cup of tea with eight and a half teaspoons of sugar!
In contrast to this, the same amount of Diet Coke contains just 1 calorie and 0g of sugar.
If we’re going by calorific value, making the swap to a diet version of your favourite drink can save you from consuming more calories and sugar than you need, which can also help out with your weight management goals.
It’s been known for a while that sugary fizzy drinks have contributed to various health issues.
In 2018, this led the UK government to introduce a sugar tax on drinks that contain more than 5g sugar per 100ml (excluding natural fruit juices and milk).
For drinks that contain more than 8g sugar per 100ml, the tax is even more expensive.
This was done in a bid to reduce sugar consumption in the UK, either by the manufacturers changing their recipe to avoid paying tax or by passing the increased cost along to the customer, in the hopes that they’d opt for the cheaper, sugar-free options.
Unfortunately, some artificial sweeteners can be off-putting to many people due to the taste, but the good news is that there are other options available for fizzy drinks such as sparkling flavoured water, or products that are able to carbonate cordials or coconut water.
When it comes to fizzy drinks, our advice is to always look at the label for the calorie and sugar content.
If in doubt, opt for the diet or zero sugar versions of drinks (which are now available in most UK pubs and restaurants).
How many calories are in coffee?
Unfortunately, this is another question that doesn’t have a straightforward answer.
This completely depends on which type of coffee you drink and where you get it from.
Many of us don’t think much about grabbing a coffee whilst we’re out on the go, but certain coffee drinks can contain even more sugar than a can of regular Coca Cola.
If you usually opt for a black coffee, you probably don’t have much to worry about.
A single shot of espresso almost always comes in at under 10 calories (and water is calorie free).
However, if you tend to prefer sweeter drinks or creamy coffees, you may have to start looking at the calorie content of your go-to takeaway coffee.
We’ve had a look at some of the UK’s most popular café chains and compared the calorie, sugar, and saturated fat content of some of the nation’s favourite drinks:
Whilst these are some of the most popular coffees that these cafés have to offer, some drinks come in with an even higher calorie and sugar content.
For example, Caffe Nero’s Carmelatte – which contains 420 calories, over 14g of saturated fats, and almost 40g of sugar – all of which equate to more than a slice of their banana and walnut loaf cake.
If you really do love your coffee and can’t go without a latte, it might be worth thinking about investing in a good flask so that you can make a day’s supply of coffee at home.
This should save you both money and calories.
Whilst it might not taste the same as what you get from the big chains, you can still treat yourself on the odd occasion, and it’ll probably make you appreciate it all the more!
You may also want to be careful if you have any instant coffee machines such as the Dolce Gusto, as the pods for these machines come pre-measured with certain amounts of coffee, milk and other ingredients.
For example, a Nescafe Dolce Gusto Mocha contains 100 calories per serving, with the Cappuccino pods coming in slightly behind the Mocha at 90 calories per serving.
However, the good news is that certain pods such as the Skinny Latte and Flat White options only contain 50 calories per serving.
For example, if you switch to using a Skinny Latte pod at home, you can save yourself up to 100 calories per cup of coffee than if you were buying it from a café.
Over the course of a week or month, these calories can add up, and they’re much better off being saved if you’re trying to lose weight.
Calories in alcoholic drinks
Another place where calories love to hide is in some of the nation’s most loved alcoholic drinks.
Although many alcoholic drinks don’t taste particularly sweet and don’t contain any fat, the calorie value for a relatively small amount of alcohol can still be pretty high.
We’ve compared some of the nation’s favourite tipples so you can see what’s in your regular order (please note that calorific values are approximate):
It’s fairly easy to see when looking at the table above how easy it can be for calories to mount up on a night out.
This is especially true if you have more than one drink, as most people do.
A good way of cutting down on your alcohol (and therefore calorie) intake is to alternate each alcoholic drink with either a diet soft drink or a glass of water.
Alternatively, you could change your wine order to a spritzer with sparkling water to make your drink and calories go further.
Some lower-calorie options include going for a single vodka with diet coke, which comes in at around 54 calories. Other lower-calorie options include:
If none of these options appeal to you, or you’d rather stick to your regular order, just bear in mind that you will have to adjust your calorie intake for food to allow for the calories spent on alcohol.
It’s also important to remember that it isn’t advised to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
More than this on a regular basis can start causing health issues other than weight-related problems.
For example, drinking large quantities on a regular basis can start to harm your liver, and on top of that, it can also lead to:
- Issues with blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood clots
- Some types of cancers
- Sexual dysfunction
Whilst alcohol can cause these issues, they’re usually most common in people that abuse alcohol for a prolonged amount of time.
Having the odd drink in the pub with your friends every so often shouldn’t cause you any harm.
Just remember to keep an eye on how much you’re drinking.
Some groups of friends choose to buy drinks in “rounds” – where each person takes turns in ordering a round of drinks for the table.
However, this can sometimes be tricky in group settings, as you may not be ready for another drink by the time the next round is due.
To save any unnecessary excessive drinking (and probably money, too), try opting out of the “round” system and buy your own drinks as and when you want them.
Why does alcohol have so many calories?
Some people are shocked when they look at the calorie content of their alcohol for the first time, as some drinks can pack a lot of calories into a small amount of liquid.
But why is alcohol so high in calories when a lot of drinks aren’t particularly sweet?
We may expect coffees to be astronomical in calories due to the sugar and fat content in the milk that’s used, but alcohol isn’t something that a lot of people would suspect to be calorific.
Most types of alcohol are actually made from natural sugars and starches.
For example, Vodka is usually made from fermented grains or potatoes. Gin is made in a similar way but mixed with Juniper berries.
These natural sugars and starches are fermented over a period of time to create the alcohol, so essentially, many alcoholic drinks are concentrated natural sugars – hence the high number of calories in a lot of boozy refreshments.
Whatever you drink, if it isn’t water, the chances are that it’s going to have a calorie value of some sort.
When it comes to sodas, you’re always best opting for diet versions to save consuming unnecessary calories on sugar when sweeteners are available.
Whilst a full-sugar option is okay for a treat every now and again, drinking sugary soft drinks every day can lead to over-consumption of calories, which can also lead to weight gain.
When it comes to takeaway coffees, there are some options that don’t contain too many calories.
For example, drinks made with a shot of espresso and some low-fat milk have fewer calories, but going for sweetened drinks that often contain syrups (such as the Caramelatte that we mentioned earlier) can send your calorie intake soaring.
We advise making a flask of coffee at home to take with you for the day, which can save you money as well as excess calories.
Alcohol is notorious for hiding calories in small amounts of liquid, so our advice is to pace yourself, alternate your alcoholic drinks with a diet soda or water.
You could even water down some drinks with sparkling water or lemonade (for example a spritzer or a shandy), which can make your alcohol stretch even further whilst lowering the number of calories per drink.
Whatever you choose to do, if you’re counting calories as part of your weight management plan, make sure to log whatever you drink in an app such as Carbs & Cals, so that you have a record of what you’ve consumed.
Alternatively, you can use a traditional paper food diary to log your meals and snacks.