Alcohol and Nutrition

whisky being poured into tumbler

Drinking alcohol responsibly is important to ensure good health. Read on for tips and guidelines to help you make wise choices when it comes to drinking alcohol. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health offers helpful, low-risk drinking guidelines*:

  • Space drinks an hour apart.
  • Have no more than 3 standard drinks per day and 15 drinks a week if you are a man.
  • Have no more than 2 standard drinks per day and 10 drinks a week if you are a woman.
  • Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid creating a habit.

* Note, these guidelines do not apply to those who should avoid alcohol, including women who are pregnant and people who live with a medical condition such as liver disease.

What is considered one drink of alcohol?

Each of these drinks contains the same amount of alcohol.

  • Regular beer, 5% alcohol: 341 mL (12 oz)
  • Wine, 12% alcohol: 145 mL (5 oz)
  • Fortified wine such as sherry, port or vermouth, 16-18% alcohol: 85 mL (3 oz)
  • Spirits or liquor such as rum or vodka, 40% alcohol: 45 mL (1.5 oz)

Who should avoid alcohol?

Alcohol can interfere with medical treatments and medications. Alcohol can be passed through the placenta and breast milk. For some people, it can also increase your risk for certain health problems such as cancer. If you drink alcohol regularly, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Avoid alcohol if you:

  • Have liver disease. Alcohol will further damage the liver.
  • Want to become or are pregnant. Alcohol can harm a baby’s developing brain, increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth, and lead to lower birth weight. There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Are trying to quit smoking.  Alcohol may make it harder for you to resist cravings.
  • Need to be alert. For example, before driving, playing sports or operating machinery.

How can alcohol affect my health?

It all depends on how much and how often you drink. Overtime, too much alcohol can result in:

  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Sexual impotence
  • Heart problems
  • Cancer
  • Menstrual problems
  • Liver disease
  • Difficulty keeping a healthy body weight

What about the heart health benefits of alcohol?

Despite the news that small amounts of alcohol may be heart healthy, if you don’t drink, don’t start to drink for health reasons. Instead, keep your heart healthy by:

  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Being active
  • Staying smoke free

How many calories are in a drink of alcohol?

Alcohol can add extra calories that may lead to weight gain. You might be surprised how many calories are in one drink.

Drink Approximate Calories
Light beer (4% alcohol), 1 bottle or 12 oz 99
Regular beer (5% alcohol), 1 bottle or 12 oz 140
Non-alcoholic beer (0.5% alcohol), 1 can or 350 mL 210
Daiquiri, 7 oz 260
Pina Colada, 4.5 oz 245
Vodka, 1.5 oz 100
Wine (11.5% alcohol), 5 oz 100

Cutting back on alcohol

Whether it’s to help manage your blood pressure or keep your body healthy, here are some ways to limit your alcohol intake:

  • Don’t drink every day.
  • Space your drinks at least one hour apart.
  • Drink water with lemon or lime to satisfy thirst.
  • Have a ‘virgin’ Caesar.
  • Choose a non-alcoholic beer.
  • If ordering wine when eating out, order it by the glass not by the bottle.
  • Mix soda water and 100% juice and drink it in a wine glass. Try this tasty cider pomtini.

How can a dietitian help?

Dietitians can support you throughout many phases of your life, from pregnancy to eating well when you are older. Counselling sessions with a dietitian can also help you to prevent and treat health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Your dietitian will give you personalized advice that meets your lifestyle and nutrition goals. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you drink alcohol, make sure to follow the low-risk drinking guidelines. No amount or type of alcohol is safe to have at any time during pregnancy.

You may also be interested in:

Keeping Your Baby Healthy During Pregnancy
Smoking and Nutrition
Healthy Habits to Cope with Stress
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada.

Last Update – January 17, 2022

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