Incorporating Alcohol into a Nutritious Lifestyle

Incorporating alcohol into a nutritious lifestyle / diet can be challenging due to the lack of nutritional value in ethanol. While some alcoholic drinks contain macro- and micronutrients such as carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavonoids, ethanol itself only provides empty calories (around 99.4 kcal). Alcoholic beverages can also contain additional calories due to the carbohydrate content of the drink itself and any mixers used. It’s important to account for these extra calories in a nutritious diet, as alcoholic drinks are often consumed in addition to regular meals rather than replacing energy from other sources.

ABV and Calories in Common Drinks. Incorporating Alcohol into a Nutritious Lifestyle
ABV and Calories in Common Drinks. Picture: National Academy of Sports Medicine. Certified
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The energy from alcoholic drinks is considered discretionary energy, meaning it can be used to fulfill daily energy needs after nutrient requirements have been met. In the US, it’s recommended that discretionary food sources make up 14% of daily energy intake, which is about 280 kcal per day based on a 2000-kcal-per-day eating pattern. If alcohol is consumed, the total discretionary calorie intake should not exceed this limit, meaning fat and added sugar consumption must be reduced. However, it can be difficult to minimize fat and sugar consumption while also consuming alcohol.

When incorporating alcohol into a nutritious lifestyle, a consumer should be alert. Alcoholic beverages provide energy that should not replace essential nutrients from other food sources. It's important to consider this energy when determining daily caloric intake.