Here's a funny thing about drinking: You can drink bottle after bottle of beer, or glass after glass of wine, without a second thought about their sugar or calorie contents. And then, perhaps when having a night off the sauce, you can get very preoccupied with the sugar content of the soft drinks you're having instead. Not a surprise, cutting out the booze is probably a part of a health kick, so we balk at the sugary alternatives. But at Club Soda we think you should not panic. Alcohol is the biggest demon here, and if you need a ginger beer to avoid the wine, then it is the right compromise on a night out.
Labels don't help
But what is the real score with sugar and calories in different drinks, and what does it all mean when you're trying to moderate your drinking?
First of all, information on sugar levels in different drinks can be difficult to find, or is not available at all. Labels on alcoholic drinks in particular don't give you much information about what you're drinking. And you can't always trust information submitted by the community on sites like myfitnesspal either. There is not enough information on the labels and often no ingredients. So you can't tell if the sugars are natural or added.
Sugar vs. alcohol
Whilst some alcohol like beer has very little sugar, what it does to your body can make you eat and drink more of the white stuff the following day. It is not just the calories and sugar that are a problem with alcohol. It disrupts vitamin and nutrient absorption, and then there are the hangovers, eating crap food, and missing gym the following day. You will notice that none of these are side effects of soft drinks.
When going for a night out you need to have an alternative you like, or you will find it harder to keep to your moderation plans. But what if you don't want to drink lots of sugar? What could you have that fits the bill?
What to drink instead
Non-alcoholic beers and wines have no added sugar, but they do often have a slightly higher natural sugar content than their alcoholic counterparts. This is due to their different production methods. But since alcohol is very calorific, non-alcoholic beers only have about half the calories of alcoholic ones. Non-alcoholic wines may contain a bit more sugar, but again have much less calories than the regular kind.
The real villain in the sugar stakes is cider, due to the commonly added sugar. Really, some ciders should be classed as alcopops, as they are a mixture of cider and other ingredients, such as sugar or apple juice to make them sweeter (I may not drink any more but I am still a cider snob!). So if you are a cider drinker, sugar can be hard to avoid. But once again, non-alcoholic ones at least have much fewer calories.
How about soft drinks?
What about soft drinks? Most of them do contain quite a bit of sugar. But with no alcohol, most of them beat beers and wines in having fewer calories per volume. And the chances are that you will also drink much less overall if you stick to soft drinks. You may have had four pints of beer in the pub, but you are unlikely to drink the same amount of ginger beer or coke. So in terms of calories consumed, a night of soft drinks will win over a night of beer or wine.
There are also differences between soft drinks. There are "light" and "diet" versions of course, but it's also good to remember that a tonic water can have half the sugar of a cola. And many of the new "craft sodas" have about a third less sugar than the traditional mass-market soft drinks. Square Root London sodas are a good example.
In the end, it's all about making healthier choices for the longer term: if the one coke keeps you away from four beers and a hangover, then that has to be better for you right? And you are also less likely to drink sugary drinks the next day to nurse a hangover.