How sweet is your Christmas tipple?

As you sip on your gin and tonic or glass of cider while you treat yourself to a bit of Christmas cake or mince pie, have you ever thought about how much sugar you’re consuming?

More often than not, we think about the sugar content in our food, not our Christmas tipple. But in fact, alcohol can have a damaging effect to the health of our teeth and gums – especially if taken to excess – because the sugar content and acidity can cause enamel erosion.

Wine: in a small glass (125ml) there is very little sugar content, approximately only one gram; however, when it comes to fortified wine, such as port, the sugar content is much higher and can be about 8g in 100ml.

Beers and ciders can have varying amounts of sugar, anything from about 14g for just under half a pint (which is almost a whole mince pie in terms of sugar), to around 40g for a pint (which is similar to a portion of Christmas pudding)!

Spirits such as vodka, gin, and rum are sugar-free, but it is when you add the mixer that the sugar content increases. Ginger ale and cola have the highest amounts of sugar, with some brands of ginger ale having as much as 9-10g per 100ml measure; that is similar to having a couple of chocolates in one go! But of course, the easiest way to avoid this sugar hit is to swap your traditional mixer for a diet or no-sugar option.

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With all the office parties and family get-togethers, a lot of us accept that we’re going to be eating sugar-laden treats. But what about our drinks?

When it comes to cocktails, it is trickier to gauge the sugar content as there can be slightly different recipes for the same cocktail; and of course, these may differ from pre-packaged options. However, for cocktails such as a screwdriver can have approximately 14g of sugar (that’s nearly four segments of a chocolate orange) and a mojito can have as much as 24g (about the same as a slice of chocolate yule log)!

Drink  Sugar content
Equivalent to
Port (100ml) 8g Two Chocolates from an assorted selction tin
Whiskey and ginger ale (25ml of spirit and 100ml of mixer) 9g That's another two chocolates from the tin!
Screwdiver 14g A mince pie
Mojito 23g A slice of chocolate yule log
'Bomb shot' (a standard shot of spirit with 100ml of energy drink) 25g Almost two slices of panettone

*Average sugar content based on three supermarket brands

But the important thing to remember, at this time of year when we’re faced with all sorts of indulgent treats, is to think about how much sugar we’re having not just in our food but also our drinks. By being more aware of what is in your favourite Christmas tipple and how much that can affect your sugar intake, means you can make a more informed decision on what you have. And just because it’s Christmas, try not to relax your daily oral health routine; looking after your teeth and gums with regular brushing and flossing will help you minimise the negative effects of sugar and acid erosion.

Published 12 December 2016

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