You can find out the nutritional information on a loaf of bread or chocolate bar in an instant, but doing the same for an alcoholic drink proves a little trickier.
Experts in the public health sector are calling for the introduction of nutritional information to be displayed on alcoholic beverages in the UK amid concerns that the high calorie content in alcoholic drinks is contributing to widespread obesity across the UK. The European Parliament is set to vote on whether calorie labels should be put on all alcoholic drinks.
Key players in the alcohol industry have often expressed their negativity, until recently. Last month Guinness producers Diageo announced that they would be displaying labelled nutrition information on their products in the US. The company’s product range also includes Smirnoff, Baileys, Captain Morgan and Johnnie Walker. Calories, carbohydrates, fat, as well as alcohol content will be readily available to view on all product packaging.
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There is no legal requirement in the UK for alcohol content and nutrition information to be displayed on alcoholic products, as it remains exempt from labelling under existing European legislation, a requirement only for food products. But our growing interest in counting calories and nutritional breakdowns on apps such as MyFitnessPal suggest that it is something that should be considered.
An ongoing campaign by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) urges the European Health Commission to include alcohol labelling in EU Legislation. Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH stressed the need for calorie labelling: “While we continue to back unit labelling for alcoholic drinks, we believe that many people find calorie labelling easier to translate into their everyday lives. Calorie labelling has been successfully introduced for a wide range of food products and this should be extended to alcohol to help improve the public’s health.”
The healthy eating trends of 2015
The healthy eating trends of 2015
1/10 Acai bowls are the new green juice
Who ever thought we’d have been ok with adding spinach to our smoothies? Yet even virtuous green juices started to get something of a bad rep, as the ‘juice fast’ backlash grew and it turned out that some shop-bought juices contained as much sugar as a can of fizzy drink. Bring on Acai bowls, the new darlings of Instagram. Like a gloopier smoothie, these are made with antioxidant-rich acai berries (they are hard to come by - search for powdered or dried berries or frozen puree), which are said to aid weight loss. Blend with frozen bananas, berries and a little nut milk and top with whatever you like - seeds, nuts, cacao nibs, goji berries. A picture-perfect purple powerhouse for breakfast.
Ella Grace Denton, www.weneedtolivemore.com
2/10 Bone broth is the new Miso soup
Remember back in the day when the word ‘broth’ would conjure up visions of Dickensian orphanages? Then miso came along, Gwyneth embraced it, and we all followed suit, lauding how filling and protein rich with little wonder broth was. We’ve come full circle now, as bone broth is back on the radar. The glowing-with-health Hemsley sisters seem to use bone broth in most of their recipes, and rave about its nutritional benefits. “Bone broth is a nourishing all rounder packed with vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin which makes it amazing for skin – including the dreaded cellulite! The healthy fats in the broth help you to assimilate important vitamins including Vit D.” There you go, something to stew over...
Food Loves Writing, Flickr
3/10 Bee pollen is the new Manuka honey
Every health hipster has a jar of manuka honey on their shelves - if they can afford it that is, a jar can cost about £15. But many claim it is worth its weight in gold, due to its unique antibacterial properties. Traditionally it was used on wounds, but many also claim that it performs miracles combatting cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and digestive problems (although the science is limited). Now bee pollen is the latest ‘superfood’ out there - thought to ward off colds, limit food cravings, improve skin tone, ward off allergies like hay fever (although some caution that it may exacerbate them) and, of course, fight cancer. Again, the science behind these claims is dubious - but it certainly adds a nice sweetness to your morning porridge.
4/10 Kelp is the new kale
Last year saw the emergence of an unassuming green leaf that was previously barely used beyond cattle feed. Now, we have kale chips in Pret, kale juices, ‘massaged’ kale salads - it’s even on the menu in fine dining restaurants. Yawn. Introducing kelp. This seaweed is high in iodine, which is said to improve thyroid function and control metabolism. It is also thought to have anti-aging properties for skin and hair. Try it in salads or add to asian-style soups.
5/10 Matcha is the new green tea
Yes, yes, yes, green tea, weightloss, yadda yadda yadda, boosts metabolism, etc etc. For 2015, though, it’s not about just any old green tea - this is matcha green tea. Made from finely milled high-grade matcha leaves, which are grown in the shade, matcha boasts 130 times more anti-oxidants than your bog standard green tea and is supposed to boost energy levels, lower stress, improve your mood and aid metabolism. It can be consumed as a regular tea, added to steamed milk for a matcha latte or even used to add a pleasant green shade and flavour to ice-cream.
6/10 Whole 30 is the new Paleo diet
Thought you were a culinary champ with your caveman-style eating plan? Well, think again, paleo is for wimps! Ok, not quite, but while people on the paleo plan cut out grains, legumes, sugar and processed foods, there is an increasing trend to paleo-fy your treats, with almond-flour pancakes, banana bread and a lot of brownies. The Whole 30 plan is a purer, stricter version of Paleo and really takes you back to basics when it comes to eating natural foods. The 30-day plan bans scales as well as sugar and alcohol, so that you can concentrate on nourishment rather than weight.
7/10 Fermenting is the new sprouting
Just when we thought we were ahead of the game by starting to sprout our own seeds and with sprouted flours creeping on to the market, the health set had to kick it up a notch. Now it’s all about making your own kombucha (fermented tea), sauerkraut or kimchi (both kinds of pickled cabbage). Fermented foods are said to aid digestion thanks to the creation of enzymes and probiotics in the process. Plus they tend to be high in B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids. Think of it as the new jam-making, and break out those mason jars.
8/10 Banana flour is the new coconut flour
Coconut flour was one of the coolest baking ingredients of the year, beloved by Paleo fans. Its highly absorbent qualities mean you only need a tiny bit for baking, keeping your creations low carb but resulting in the odd dry-crumbly-mess baking fail. Banana flour is the next flour to experiment with. Made from green bananas (and no, not banana-flavoured), it is gluten free and light in texture, so ideal for baking. High in resistant starch, which is effective against colon cancer, obesity, and diabetes, it is already being lauded for its nutritional benefits in Africa and South America, and will surely start to become much more visible on health-food shop shelves in the near future.
9/10 Bulletproof coffee is the new soy latte
Nowadays it is possible to walk into almost any cafe and order a soy latte without being eyeballed as a lunatic by the person behind the counter. But would you have the guts to request a stick of butter in your morning brew? Well, some coffee shops are offering exactly that. Bulletproof coffee is a paleo-friendly invention which involves a black coffee with a dollop of coconut oil or butter. Bleurgh. But advocates say it gives you more slow-release energy, sharpens your brain and helps you to focus - and even that it is delicious. Now the theory has been expanded into a whole ‘Bulletproof’ diet plan, rich in fat. Who wants to bet on when Starbucks will give it a shot?
10/10 Tiger nuts are the new almonds
2014 was a good year for almonds. Gym-goers and raw foodists alike carried around a stash for healthy, protein-rich snacking, almond-milk lattes were quaffed, and almond flour featured in so many paleo and gluten-free treats. Now tiger nuts, or ‘earth almonds’ (yes, really), are about to vie for snacking superiority. Tiger nuts are not nuts, but the tubers of the sedge plant. Originally a key food source for Paleolithic Indians, they have until recently been used as animal feed or a side dish in South America, Africa and the Middle East, or in Hispanic companies made into a sweet, milky drink called horchata. But now the hipsters have got their hands on it, drying, roasting and flavouring with the likes of sweet chilli for an on-the-go snack. High in healthy fats, protein and natural sugar, it is rich in energy content, and thought to help prevent heart disease and improve circulation.
Many of the health conscious among us read the calorie information on the food we buy when purchasing items for lunch, or browsing products in the supermarket. But this is less likely when purchasing alcohol, or when drinking in a social environment, the most obvious reason being that a nutritional breakdown is not readily available, leaving many of us are unaware of the content of our favourite alcoholic drinks.
Experts raise concerns that a large number of drinkers are unaware of the number of calories in alcohol, and the high fat and calorie content. A report released by the RSPH revealed that almost 90 per cent of people surveyed did not know or incorrectly estimated the calories in a pint of lager. Over two-thirds (67 per cent) of people interviewed also claimed to actively support the addition of calories to alcohol labels.
Government attempts to educate the public on the negative effects of alcohol include the alcohol awareness website Drinkaware.co.uk, an app through which you can track the number of units and calories in your drinks.
At present, some UK alcohol companies voluntarily provide information advocating the responsible drinking of their products, detailing the unit alcohol content per serving and per container. However, none display calorie or nutritional information.
Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East of England, has expressed support for mandatory alcohol labelling: "Europe is still the heaviest-drinking region in the world but many people don't realise that a large glass of wine contains the same number of calories as a slice of cake. In order to reduce the burden of alcohol-related harm, we must make sure people are given clear information to enable them to make informed choices."
Providing nutritional information for alcohol beverages to the public would allow consumers to better monitor their diets, and maintain a healthier lifestyle, pledge Eurocare (The European Alcohol Policy Alliance), a European network of public health organisations focusing on alcohol policy. Mariann Skar, Secretary General, European Alcohol Policy Alliance told The Independent: “bringing alcohol packaging in line with non-alcoholic beverage packaging would enhance consumer’s choice, and that energy and other nutritional information would help consumers to make informed decisions regarding alcohol intake”.