When many of us start to address our drinking behaviours, it is usually about improving our overall health. For many, weight and diet play a role in this desire for change. So it’s only natural that we begin to be concerned about the amount of sugar and calories in alcohol. After making the decision to reduce our alcohol intake, many of us turn to non-alcoholic alternatives of our favourite beverages. But how much sugar are we still consuming with these options?

There are different sugars in our diet. One type we tend to have too much of, is ‘free sugar.’ This term is used to describe the sugar that is added to food or drink, or the type that is found in fruit juices, honey and syrup.

The UK guidelines suggest that adults should get less than 5% of their daily calories from free sugars, which works out to about six or seven teaspoons of sugar. That should be the most you get from all the food and drink that you have on an average day.

A pint of alcohol-free lager contains one and a half teaspoons of free sugars, which is a quarter of your recommended maximum intake in just one glass. If you consume an entire bottle of alcohol-free chardonnay, on average you would have had eight teaspoons of free sugars, but this varies from product to product. In some cases, that may even be more than its alcohol-containing alternative. A glass of lemonade contains about two teaspoons of free sugar, while the same amount of cola is nearer five, so if you add mixers to your Non Alcoholic drinks, you are again increasing your sugar intake.

Non-alcoholic beers and wines have no added sugar, but they do often have a slightly higher natural sugar content than their alcoholic counterparts. Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). The higher levels of natural sugars in non-alcoholic beers are 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 also have much fewer calories than the alcoholic versions.

Cider, however, has a much higher levels of sugar due to the commonly added sugar. They are a mixture of cider and other ingredients, such as sugar or apple juice to make them sweeter. But once again, non-alcoholic alternatives have much fewer calories.

Health cannot be quantified by any one aspect of nutrition. The sugar or calorie content of a drink you have doesn’t necessarily make it, or you, unhealthy. Moreover, the role of a drink on your health depends on how much and how often you have it, as well as what else you’re eating or drinking.