Beer, wine or spirits: which is the healthiest choice?

One of the most common questions I am asked is, “Beer, wine or spirits: which is the healthiest choice?” Lets face it, it is an important question, most especially on a Friday afternoon, Saturday night or even a Sunday lunchtime.

The Breakdown

Essentially, beer and wine are very similar in terms of kilojoule content when drunk in the most commonly served quantities and they can contribute to weight gain. 

If wine and beer are compared on a 100ml basis (except for the vodka at 60ml) this is what we find:

Wine, red                                        295 kJ

White wine, dry.                            283 kJ

White wine, sweet                         275 kJ

Beer, average                                  149 kJ

Vodka (60 ml)                                282 kJ

Fantastic you may be thinking, these figures are reassuring, beer is looking great.  There is a small problem though.  Most people don’t usually drink just 100ml of beer. In practical real life terms, this would mean you cracking open the beer, enjoying 100ml and then passing it onto someone else for their 100 mls and so on down the line. Never going to happen. 

Standard drinks vary in size depending on the type of alcohol.  A standard drink of beer is 250ml or 2/3 can or stubby and a standard drink of wine is 100ml.  Measure that 100ml and I can almost guarantee that is not the amount you are pouring yourself.

An average restaurant size serving of wine is 180ml or 1.8 standard drinks and the average serving size of a full strength beer is 375ml or 1 middy/can/stubby, which is equal to 1.5 standard drinks.

The Fat and Alcohol Express Train

If you go out for a drink and enjoy 2-3 wines or 2-3 stubbys of beer, you will clock up around 1500 -1600 kJ in both cases. This is equivalent to chomping through 4 slices of multi-grain bread, although not quite as nutritious. Beer, wine and other drinks can weaken resolve and many people reach for high fat snacks after a few drinks.  Combining fatty foods with alcohol is the worst combination of all for weight gain, so it is a good idea to eat before drinking alcohol to lessen the temptation to reach for the chips and peanuts. If you can separate these two things, it is a game changer in terms of weight gain.

Are Low Carbohydrate Beers the Beer Equivalent of Celery?

Yes, low carb beers are low in carbohydrate but carbohydrates are not the only source of kilojoules.  The average stubby of full strength beer contains 560 kilojoules, light beer contains 360 kilojoules and a low carb beer will contain approximately 470 kilojoules. This means that choosing a low carb beer over a full strength will save you about 100 kilojoules.  Not a huge difference when all is considered.

In a 375ml can or stubby of full strength beer there will be approximately 13 grams of carbohydrate compared to 3 grams in the low carb version.   Diabetics may benefit from the lower carbohydrate content but the bigger issue for them is the alcohol content and this is not altered in the low carb versions.

Low carb beers are not new in Australia. The marketing of these drinks is usually accompanied by terms such as ‘health and lifestyle conscious’, ‘low carb diet’ and ‘for those who like to have a beer but are watching their weight’. Basically these beers somehow seem to promise to keep you slimmer while drinking a full strength beer.  Low carb beers are not necessarily the same as ‘light’ beers.  The light alternatives are lower in alcohol.

Drinking low carb alcoholic beverages does not lessen the risks associated with drinking alcohol such as becoming overweight or obese, cancer, high blood pressure and stroke. If you are concerned about your weight, consider choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking less of it. For some more details on low car beers check this summary out here.

And What About The Goodness Of Red Wine?

It is true that red wine is a rich source of antioxidant flavonols (sub-group of flavonoids). This means that these antioxidants in red wine COULD lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, the ‘baddie’ of the bunch and reducing the likelihood of blood clots in our arteries. However, to achieve this protective effect, a fair bit needs to be consumed and this is not ideal from an alcohol perspective.

The early 1990’s were heady days for red wine drinkers. This was the time when scientists had observed that red wine might have some very positive health benefits because it was a good source of antioxidants.  It was the time that red wine was celebrated as being a friend and a time when the beneficial quantity was unknown.  It meant that there was a perceived license to drink red wine whenever you felt like it. Alas, we know that this is not the case.

 

12 Tips for a Healthy Festive Season – make a list and check it twice

There are just two sleeps until the jolly man arrives to spread festive cheer and joy! For most of us the festive cheer and joy has been gathering momentum for a while and very often involves things to eat, things to drink, things to eat, things to drink……

Here are my 12 Tips for a Healthy Festive Season to assist your body over the break. Don’t forget to check it twice.

I like to move it, move it

We all know that the festive season means party, party, party. It’s just like managing a bank account and if you are budgeting for big ticket items (like parties or events), this means doing some saving. Choose an exercise that you enjoy and buddy up with a friend.

Choose your drop

We all know that Santa likes the odd drink or two to go with his midnight snacks. The thing is, the nuts, chips, dips and their friends make you drink more. It’s not your fault, they are addictive and persuasive. Fat and alcohol are mates too and togetherness promotes fat storage. Think about eating a healthy snack or meal before you hit the party. This will eliminate the need to pounce on platters of finger food as they sail by and most importantly, less excess baggage in January.

Cold as ice

Summer is hot right? Instead of grabbing a sugary icy pole, try blending some watermelon, fresh lime and ice for a refreshing and healthy treat. Perfect for summer. Simple too. Just remember not to get your tongue stuck on them, it’s awkward.

Chocolate

Chocolate contains a bunch of powerful antioxidants that can do good works in our bodies. Don’t go crazy though – two squares of good quality dark chocolate will do the trick, you don’t need the whole box that you were given!

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

Don’t eat too late at night – this is when your body is least active and not burning a lot of fuel. Eating foods loaded with sugar and fat can mean disturbed sleep and tired eyes the next morning.

Zing

Let’s face it, the festive season can be tiring. Aside from endless festivities – ongoing tiredness and fatigue can be caused by iron deficiency. Iron is essential as it helps oxygen sail around your blood stream and everyone’s after more oxygen aren’t they? Lean red meat is one of the high scorers in the iron department and is a great source of protein and zinc too. Breakfast cereal and legumes are decent sources of plant based iron but need a friend in the form of Vitamin C to assist absorption. Pump that iron people.

Gone fishing

It seems that Western Australia is the favourite place for sharks to hang out. Sharks are multi-skilled, as the finned hunters are not only scary but nutritious too, being low in fat and high in protein. Shark, fish and other seafood (fresh and tinned) are the perfect summer protein full of omega-3 fats which promote healthy hearts and brain function. We can all do with those.

Carb down

Low carb beers are low in carbohydrates but they still contain alcohol and therefore kilojoules. Choosing a low carb beer over a full strength beer will save you about 100 kilojoules. Low carb beer are not the same as ‘light’ beers which are lower in alcohol, so watch out for the false promises of beer advertisers. If you are concerned about your weight try choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking a bit less of it.

Safety in numbers

With all the mountains of food that we are preparing and eating during the festive season it is easy to get busy and forget about storing our food correctly. To avoid an unhappy stomach and poisoning all of your guests in the process, don’t leave food uncovered on the bench or table, put it straight into the fridge.

It’s all in the eyes

With the year coming to a close, it is no wonder that our eyes can get weary and sore and this can be especially so at night when we are behind the wheel. Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene which is a form of Vitamin A, known as the ‘vision vitamin’ because it helps prevent night blindness. You never know when you need your night vision goggles on whilst out socialising over summer, so get crunching on a carrot every day.

Mindfulness

Before you eat – be selective, gather only what you need, roll it around a few times and savour it, chew slowly and enjoy. Being mindful means everything tastes so much better and can prevent you from overeating.

Relax, don’t do it

We made it to the end of 2016! Refreshing and regrouping is essential for your well-being and we all need rest and relaxation for a healthy brain and body. Make sure you carve some out for yourself.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy festive season and break! Well done on what you have achieved this year and here’s to next year being your best yet. Thanks so much for being part of my community and I look forward to speaking to you all in 2017.

Boosting Men’s Health

Just over a week ago it was Fathers Day in Australia and millions of Dad’s all over the country were inundated with socks, electrical appliances and of course, a multitude of vouchers. It is a time when we remind our Dad’s, husbands, granddads and the significant men in our lives that they are special and that we appreciate them. The thing is, these men of ours actually need a little bit more than knick-knacks and $50 to spend at Bunning’s. They need a few more quality years tacked onto their lives. It is true that men’s overall life expectancy in Australia and other western countries has improved substantially over the past 50 years, but their average life expectancy still remains significantly lower than that of women’s. I happened to snag a husband who is younger than me, so we just might be on par in the long run. Cougar jokes aside, the leading causes of death we are dealing with in Australia in men are heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, adult onset hearing loss and lymph, blood, lung, prostate and colorectal cancer. Fathers Day is a short 24-hour celebration but there are some constructive actions that men can take (with their women and kids supporting them) to clock up many more. If you are a male reading this, I’m talking to YOU about men’s health and if you are female, please feel free to apply to any male you care about.

1. Use your measuring tape – it’s easy to jump on the scales to assess your weight situation but the weight you see on the scales includes fat, muscle, blood, bone and every other little bit of you. Measuring your waist circumference is a better way to tell if you have too much body fat and where it is situated on your body. For most adults a waist measurement of greater than 94cm for men and 80cm for women is an indicator of too much internal fat, which can cover the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas and increase the risk of chronic disease. Make sure you measure at the point between your hipbone and the bottom of your ribs and use the same place every time. Aim to be under these measurements for a healthier amount of body fat. 2. Choose your drop – The reality is that for most of us, alcohol is part of our social lives. For men, this can be a big part of their work lives too. It is interesting when we consider the comparison of beer, wine and spirits. 100ml wine 295kJ 100ml beer 149kJ 30ml vodka, whisky, bourbon 260kJ 250ml soft drink mixer 420kJ On paper, things are looking good for beer. However, can you imagine drinking 100ml beer from a stubbie and then stopping or passing it onto your mate for their 100ml serve? I think it is fair to say that no one drinks only 100ml beer. An average restaurant size serving of wine is 180ml or 1.8 standard drinks and the average serving size of a full strength beer is 375ml or 1 middy/can/stubby, which is equal to 1.5 standard drinks. Beer, wine and other drinks can weaken resolve and many people reach for high fat snacks after a few drinks. Combining fatty foods with alcohol is the worst combination of all for weight gain, so it is a good idea to eat before drinking alcohol to lessen the temptation to reach for the chips and peanuts. Some lower kilojoule choices include spirits plus a no sugar mixer or soda water and lime. You could add ice to a glass of wine. More than two drinks per day increase brain shrinkage and there is a lot of research that shows even smaller amounts can lead to shrinkage. The clients that I work with will often accept an alcoholic drink at a function and simply drink it in slow motion or not at all. This way nobody will harass you to have a drink and no one notices that you aren’t actually drinking any. 3. Make a date – We all know that date nights are crucial to relationships right? Well, it’s not just our other halves that are important because research shows that men who maintain their own social groups are healthier and recover from illness more quickly. Spending time with friends is also considered a key part of combating depression. In Australia, the statistics are grim. Suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged between 15 and 44 years with men less likely to get the help they need. ABS data shows that only 27 per cent of men seek professional help compared to 40 per cent of women. Women are often the social coordinators in relationships and perhaps we need to be encouraging male bonding time a little bit more. 4. Check it up – when was the last time your man had a check-up with his GP? Males are not known for being proactive in this department and may need a not so gentle push to get there. Choose a month in the year and make it an annual gala event – the types of markers that should be checked include fasting blood glucose, full blood lipids, liver and kidney function, cortisol, thyroid, full iron study and possibly hormones. Don’t forget that knowledge is power. 5. Fruit and vegetables – Australians are still behind the eight ball when it comes to fruit and vegetable intake and men lag behind women. Most people tell me that getting enough fruit is the easy part of the equation but the vegetable bit can be trickier. We need two serves of fruit each day with one serve being equivalent to 1 medium sized piece of fruit such as an apple or pear and five serves of vegetables with one serve being ½ cup of cooked vegetables or salad. It can be fairly difficult to face all of your vegetables on your dinner plate at the end of the day, so why not take some to work to include in lunch and snacks? A punnet of cherry tomatoes, a Lebanese cucumber, a handful of crisp snow peas, or strips of red capsicum are easily transportable, can all be eaten at your desk and are super low calorie. For some delicious salad ideas check some out here.

 

On the Eleventh Day….

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Eleven emus kicking…ten wombats sleeping, nine crocs a weeping, eight flies a feasting, seven possums playing, six sharks a swimming, five kan-ga-roos, four cuddling koalas, three little penguins, two pink galahs and a kookaburra up a gum tree. Emus worry me, they really do.  Beady little eyes and a lonnnnnnggg neck that looks like it might reach out at any moment and give you a little peck followed up by a quick kick.  An iconic Australian product that we all know is the good old Emu Export beer.  It is still around but not considered to be in vogue now.  It was and still is a full-strength beer but now we are bombarded with low carb beers.  Are they the real deal? Low carb beers are low in carbohydrates but they still contain alcohol and therefore kilojoules.  Choosing a low carb beer over a full strength beer will save you about 100 kilojoules.  In a 375ml can or stubby of full strength beer there will be approximately 13 grams of carbohydrate compared to 3 grams in the low carb version, so this could be useful for diabetics but there is still have issue of the alcohol content.  Low carb beers are not new in Australia and are not the same as ‘light’ beers which are lower in alcohol, so watch out for the false promises of beer advertisers. If you are concerned about your weight (and Christmas Day may not the day to be concerned), consider choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking less of it.

On the Second Day….

Two tips in one day is a lot to take in I know but we need to catch up……On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two pink galahs… and a kookaburra in a gum tree. If the illustrations are anything to go by in the ‘The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas’, the pink galahs are throwing back a couple of cocktails and teasing the kookaburra.  I had a quick word to Santa today at the shops and he did indeed confirm that the galahs do like to imbibe in a few beverages around Christmas and revel in being the life of the party. Just in case you do too, there are some things that might be handy to take on board.  What you choose to drink is a key factor.  Red and white wine and champagne are pretty similar with a 100ml glass containing between 270-295 kJ.  Beer seems like at a winner at 149kJ per 100ml but lets face it, who drinks only 100ml beer?  Can you imagine cracking open a stubbie and then having to give it away after drinking only just under a quarter? Then we move a little higher, onto the spirit shelf.  A spirit like vodka, whisky, bourbon and the like attracts around 270kJ per 30ml shot whilst the elite spirits like Malibu, Baileys or Sambuca contain 420kJ per 30ml but watch out for their friends, the mixer.  A glass of mixer like cola or lemonade contains 420kJ, which can be just as much as the alcohol.  Would you sit down and eat 8-10 teaspoons sugar?  I didn’t think so. Then there are the nuts, chips, dips and the like that make you drink more. Its not your fault, they are very addictive and persuasive aren’t they?  Fat and alcohol are friends too and togetherness promotes fat storage.  Of course I would not suggest that you should drink alcohol and not eat, that would be irresponsible BUT think about eating a healthy snack or meal before you hit the party  This will eliminate the need to pounce on platters of finger food as they sail by and most importantly less excess baggage in January.

One beer bottle…..

What better time than Friday afternoon to celebrate the fact that today it is International Beer Day. Who knew? When beer is discussed in my presence it is usually in reference to whether it is ‘betterer for you’ if there is such a thing, than wine or other alcohol. The thing is, standard servings of beer and wine are very similar in terms of kilojoule content and both can contribute to weight gain indirectly. Beer nutrition: these two words are not usually seen together, so let’s do some math.  If wine and beer are compared on a 100ml basis this is what we find: Wine, red                                         295 kJ White wine, dry                                 283 kJ White wine, sweet                             275 kJ Beer, average                                   149 kJ Fantastic, you think, these figures are reassuring, and beer is looking great.  There is a small problem though.  Most people don’t usually drink just 100ml of beer. Imagine drinking 100ml out of your stubby and then passing it on to your mate to finish off.  No, I didn’t think so. Standard drink servings vary in size depending on the type of alcohol.  A standard serving of beer is 250ml or 2/3 can or stubby while a standard serving of wine is 100ml.  Restaurants are more generous when they pour, it seems.  An average restaurant size serving of wine is 180ml or 1.8 standard drinks, and the average serving size of a full strength beer is 375ml or 1 middy/can/stubby, which is equal to 1.5 standard drinks. If you go out and enjoy 2-3 wines or 2-3 stubbys of beer, you will clock up around 1500 -1600 kJ in both cases. This is equivalent to chomping through 4 slices of multi-grain bread, although not quite as nutritious!   Beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks can weaken one’s resolve and soon have you reaching for high fat snacks.  Combining fatty foods with alcohol is the worst combination of all for weight gain, so it is a good idea to eat a meal before drinking alcohol to lessen the temptation to reach for the chips and peanuts. So, Happy International Beer Day to you and please enjoy your 100ml shots.