UK Drinkers Pile On Pounds

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The average wine drinker in England now consumes around 2,000 calories from booze alone each month, new figures out today show. Over a year this is equivalent to 38 extra roast beef dinners or almost 184 bags of crisps.

Two fifths (42 per cent) of women surveyed by the Government's Know Your Limits campaign admitted they didn't know that a glass of white wine has the same calorie content as a bag of crisps. Two large glasses of white wine not only put a woman over the recommended daily limit for alcohol consumption but - at approximately 370kcals - also provide her with nearly a fifth of her daily calorie allowance.

Similarly, two fifths of men (40 per cent) aren't aware that a pint of lager has as many calories as a sausage roll. A beer-drinker knocking back just five pints a week would add a whopping 44,200 calories over a year, equivalent to 221 doughnuts.

But additional calories don't just come from the alcohol consumed. More than one in three drinkers (37 per cent) admit they are likely to eat more than they usually would or ditch the healthy diet when drinking above their recommended daily limits. Almost one in three (29 per cent) drinkers order crisps, nuts or pork scratchings to accompany their booze, while 19 per cent regularly opt for a takeaway to grab a pizza, burger, bag of chips or kebab when drinking more than two pints of beer or two glasses of wine.

The new Know Your Limits figures also suggest that the 'morning after' sees us pack away yet more calories. Almost two thirds of drinkers (62 per cent) who normally eat a bowl of cereal or muesli for breakfast ditch it in favour of less healthy breakfasts to help them through their hangover. To settle their stomachs after drinking more than the recommended daily limits, over a quarter (28 per cent) turn to a fry-up, bacon or sausage sandwich, or takeaway breakfast from a fast-food chain. Swapping a bowl of cereal for a fry-up can add an extra 450 calories, on top of the alcohol calories consumed the night before.

Health Minister, Phil Hope said: "Regularly drinking more than our recommended daily limits can have a knock on effect on our health - including an expanding waistline.

"It's not only the calories in the drinks themselves that can help to pile on the pounds, we're also more likely to eat fatty foods when we've had one too many. To avoid piling on the pounds we should try to drink within the recommended limits, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly."

Heather Caswell, spokesperson for the British Nutrition Foundation added: "Many women don't know that two large glasses of white wine not only puts them over the recommended daily limit for alcohol consumption, but also provides them with nearly 20 per cent of their daily calorie allowance, at approximately 370kcals in total.

"Most people would baulk at consuming a full glass of single cream, but wouldn't think twice about a couple of pints. But the calorie content is similar and, over time, excess alcohol intake is likely to lead to weight gain. Sticking to sensible drinking habits and keeping to the recommended units will not only help keep off those extra pounds but will also help decrease your risk of serious health problems, such as some types of cancer and liver disease."

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The British Nutrition Foundation offers some top tips for minimising calorie intake:

* Stick to your daily recommended units: men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day; women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day. As an indication, a pint of lager (ABV 5.2%) and a 250ml glass of wine (ABV 12%) both contain 3 units of alcohol.

* Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water - this will help to prevent you becoming dehydrated.

* Don't drink on an empty stomach. If you do reach for snacks while drinking, opt for a healthier option: choose a sandwich instead of crisps or chips; choose a chicken burger without mayonnaise instead of a kebab with garlic sauce.

* Drinking in rounds can mean you end up drinking more than you intended. Opt out and drink at your own pace.

* Try cutting down with a friend, as you'll be more likely to stick to it with moral support.

* Eat a healthy dinner before you start drinking. Order or cook before you start drinking so you're not tempted to go for the less healthy options.

* Pace yourself by taking small sips.

* Avoid 'binge drinking' - some people are under the misapprehension that they can 'save' their units to splurge at the weekend.

* If you're drinking white wine, why not add a splash of soda water to help the same number of units last longer?

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