Are you eating a salad tonight and thinking of having a glass of wine? If so, you could be consuming the calorific equivalent of a doughnut or a hamburger.
A new report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) urges drinks companies to label their alcoholic products to show the number of calories they contain, as part of a bid to tackle obesity.
In a paper on the “invisible” calories in alcohol, the organisation called for calorie counts to be included alongside the number of units, daily guidelines advice and pregnancy warnings, which drinks companies agreed to include on their packaging as part of a deal with the government in 2011.
The move was backed by Alcohol Concern, but drinks producers say the laws required could take years to introduce and people should be more focused on alcohol content.
The majority of the 2,117 UK adults asked in a TSPH recent poll either did not know or underestimated the number of calories in a glass of wine and a pint of lager.
One unit of alcohol contains eight grams or 10ml of alcohol which provides 56 calories. A large 250m glass of while wine is the same as one doughnut: 180 calories.
Current UK government guidelines for health and wellbeing suggest that women should not drink more than 2-3 units every day (one pint of beer or one medium glass of wine); men should not drink more than 3-4 units every day (one and a half pints of beer or one large glass of wine).
While a unit of alcohol is 56 calories, a unit of 13 per cent ABV wine is around 70 calories (a 175ml glass is 2.3 units and over 160 calories).
Spirits may also frequently be accompanied by soft drinks (mixers) containing sugar. A pina colada, for example, is the equivalent of a cheeseburger: 450 calories.
Among adults who drink, it is estimated that nearly 10 per cent of their daily calorie intake typically comes from alcohol.
A unit of 4 per cent ABV beer will contain around 80 calories (and a pint over 180 calories) – the equivalent of almost 90 small strawberries. Guidelines suggest that men should not drink more than three or four units every day (one and a half pints).
The relationship between alcohol and obesity is complex. Alcohol cannot be stored in the body, but its conversion to acetate in the liver and subsequent release into the blood stream inhibits the amount of fat the body burns.