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Ask the experts: Low-sugar non-alcoholic drinks

Ask the experts: Low-sugar non-alcoholic drinks

Q. I have cut my alcohol consumption dramatically in the past couple of years, partly for my liver’s sake but also to help me lose a little weight around my middle! However, despite choosing mostly non-alcoholic drinks, I have not lost much weight at all. Where am I going wrong?

A. Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull responds:

Whether you’re a non-drinker, choosing to have more alcohol-free days or being the sober driver, the non-alcoholic drinks on offer when you’re out and about are often limited to cola, fruit juice or just plain old water. Not that exciting really!

These days, however, if you wanted to take your own drink to a barbecue or party, there are lots of other options available in the supermarket – but, there is a catch. What you might not realise is that many alternative non-alcoholic drinks can have just as many kilojoules, and sometimes more sugar, than even the alcoholic drinks. That’s not a reason to go back to booze but it is a reminder to be sure you are making better choices, especially if you are watching your waistline and wanting to cut back on sugar.

Let’s look at the sugar content of common alcoholic drinks:

kJ GRAMS SUGAR TSP SUGAR
(HFG 5g = 1 tsp)
125ml wine 430 2.9 0.6
330ml 5% beer (lager) 550 0.7 0.1
60ml (2 shots) vodka 550 0.0 0
60ml (2 shots) vodka + 150ml tonic 780 13.6 2.7
60ml (2 shots) gin + diet tonic 620 0.0 0

Now let’s look at the sugar and kilojoules in some common non-alcoholic drinks:

  • Orange juice, 250ml: 380 kJ, 20g (4 teaspoons) sugar
  • Schweppes Soda with a Twist of Lemon, 250ml: 226kJ, 12.5g (2.5 teaspoons) sugar
  • Lipton Peach Iced Tea, 500ml: 463kJ, 26.4g (5.3 teaspoons) sugar
  • V Pure, 330ml: 541kJ, 29.2g (5.8 teaspoons) sugar
  • Phoenix Lightly Sparkling Cranberry Lime, 145ml: 216kJ, 12.8g (2.6 teaspoons) sugar

And, finally, the good news… here are some healthier, lower sugar options for those times when you want to enjoy a social occasion but not a glass of alcohol as well:

  • Keri Tomato Juice with black pepper and chilli (virgin bloody mary), 250ml: 297kJ, 8.1g (1.6 teaspoons) sugar
  • Oceanspray Cranberry Light, 250ml: 5g (1 teaspoon) sugar
  • Barker’s Unsweetened Blackcurrant with still or sparkling water, 250ml: 135kJ, 4.3g (0.9 teaspoon) sugar
  • Sparkling water with fresh lime, mint, apple, feijoa, kiwifruit or slices of ginger – or whatever fruit you like: 0 kJ, 0 sugar
  • Iced tea made with still or sparkling water and an iced teabag (Red Seal and Healtheries do great ones): 0 kJ, 0 sugar



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