Happy Hour Woes: How Many Calories Are You Really Drinking?

Is your glass more than half full?

When its been a busy week, a drab Monday, or I’m just catching up with old friends I occasionally like to pour myself a glass of wine–and I rarely stop pouring at the appropriate 5 oz serving (that’s barely more than 1/2 a cup people!). But according to a recent CDC survey that determined the number of calories the average American consumes daily from alcohol, maybe you aren’t pouring very conservatively either.


Now this study isn’t calling us all a bunch of alcoholics, because technically most of us are still within the daily health limit of 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.  The survey is bringing attention to the calories we are consuming from all that alcohol–about 100 calories on average per day–which is almost as many calories as we get from soda. Alcohol accounts for 16% of adults’ total caloric intake; the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults consume no more than 5 to 15% of calories from solid fats or sugars (the category alcohol falls into). By those standards Americans are over that limit from alcohol intake alone.


Some interesting facts from the CDC study about our alcohol intake:

  • Men average 150 calories, while women average a little over 50 calories per day from alcohol
  • Almost 20% of men and 6% of women drink more than 300 calories a day
  • Adults 20-39 years old drink more heavily than those who are over 40
  • The drink of choice for men was overwhelmingly beer, and women evenly chose liquor, beer, and wine (we like to keep our options open, right ladies?)


How many calories are in that drink?

Self experiment: I poured myself a glass of what I considered to be an appropriate serving of wine, and then I measured out an actual 5-ounce serving of wine into a glass.



On the left: 5-oz serving


On the right: My glass


You can see the difference.







I really poured 7.5 ounces of wine–whoops.


My glass of pinot noir wine contains 190 calories, and the 5-ounce serving contains 130 calories–that’s a difference of 60 calories! Just three glasses a week and I’ve racked up an extra 180 calories.


And yes, I did open a bottle of wine at 9 am for good picture-taking lighting. Don’t judge.







When you consider a 12-oz beer has 150 calories, 1.5 ounces of liquor has 100 calories (not counting the mixer), and a 5-oz glass of wine contains 120 calories, knocking out a couple beers with buddies or sipping two glasses of wine over the course of an evening means drinking an extra 250-300 calories. This means the average guy drinks an extra 1,050 calories per week, and the average women drinks an extra 350 calories per week from alcohol alone. And if you over-pour your drinks like I do my wine, you may be getting in even more calories than you think.


How to avoid pouring EXTRA calories

  • When drinking liquor, consider using club soda, diet soda, or diet tonic and adding a slice of lemon, lime, or orange–flavored liquors for taste without the calories.  
  • Choose a light beer over a lager or dark ale.
  • Turn wine into an easy sangria by mixing it with equal parts diet 7-Up or Sprite Zero and adding frozen strawberries or cherries for flavor. You’ll get a bigger drink with the same amount of calories. I also like to add a dash of cinnamon to my homemade sangria!


Enjoy your adult beverage, but don’t forget every ounce counts (even if you don’t remember it the next day). Cheers!


2 Responses to Happy Hour Woes: How Many Calories Are You Really Drinking?

  1. Sean M says:

    The important question is: where did you get those COOL wine glasses?

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