Tuesday, 10 November 2015 05:37

How Much Alcohol Can I Drink As Part Of A Healthy Diet?

In moderation, alcohol can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, but drinking too much can be harmful. Excessive alcohol intake may contribute to weight gain, and increasing evidence suggests a link between alcohol intake and risk of certain cancers.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines[i] recommend people ‘limit intake of alcohol’. Alcoholic drinks provide energy (kilojoules) but contain few other nutrients, except for the bioactive flavonoids found in wine (mainly red wine).

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s ‘Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol’[ii] recommend the safest options are:

  • Healthy men and women drink no more than two standard drinks on any one day, and no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion.
  • Children and young people under 18 years should avoid alcohol (and this is especially important for those under 15 years).
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid alcohol.

    standard_drinks.jpg

Alcohol contributes energy (kilojoules) to the diet – and alcoholic drinks that contain added sugar (such as cider) provide even more kilojoules, and this can add up. If alcohol is consumed in addition to the normal diet, leading to excess energy intake compared to requirements, weight will increase. Due to the way alcohol is processed by the body, appetite may be increased as other nutrient processing is delayed[iii]. So limiting intake of alcohol (as suggested by the Australia

n Dietary Guidelines) is an important strategy for achieving energy balance, managing appetite and therefore weight control.

Quick-service restaurants selling alcohol

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) supports initiatives that make it easier for Australians to make healthier food and drink choices. DAA believes offering alcohol as a menu item at quick-service restaurants is a step in the wrong direction.

 The Association is concerned about the potential public health impact of exposing impressionable children and adolescents to alcohol through popular, family-friendly quick-service restaurants. DAA is also worried, especially in view of increasing rates of overweight and obesity in Australia, that having alcohol available in quick-service restaurants will make it easier for some Australians to consume excess energy (kilojoules).

 Instead, DAA would like to see quick-service restaurants continually improve the nutritional quality of menu items, and through responsible marketing of foods, make it easier for all people to choose the healthier options.


[i] National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

[ii] National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2009.

[iii] National Health and Medical Research Council. Alcohol and health in Australia https://www.nhmrc.

gov.au/health-topics/alcohol-guidelines/alcohol-and-health-australia.