Beer Cheat Sheet

Beer belly? A total myth. Get the straight facts on all kinds of brews.
Published November 6, 2015

First, the good news: Beer bellies, the traditional male malady that would put either sex off downing a cold one, are a total myth, says Charlie Bamforth, PhD, chair and professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, Davis and author of Beer: Health and Nutrition. "If folks get fat from drinking beer it's because their total calorie intake is too high and they're not working it off," says Bamforth.

And now the less-good news: beer is just about as caloric as any alcoholic beverage. "The most significant source of calories in beer is the alcohol itself," says Bamforth, "The stronger the beer, the more calories." Alcohol is calorie-dense, packing seven calories per gram. That's almost as much as fat, which has nine calories per gram.

Drink smart

There are thousands of different beers out there. We break it down by the numbers, so you can minimize your SmartPoints™ values while maximizing your enjoyment. (Based on 12-oz servings.)

  • Most 12-ounce beer with 5 percent alcohol by volume contains a SmartPoints value of 5.
  • The typical 16-ounce draft pint contains a SmartPoints value of 6.
  • Most 12-ounce "light" beers have a SmartPoints value of 3.
  • A 16-ounce pint of light beer has a SmartPoints value of 4.
  • A 12-ounce non-alcoholic beer has a SmartPoints value of 2.

Popular beer brands with 3 SmartPoints  values
Heineken Premium Light
Coors Light
Grolsch Light
Miller Lite
Milwaukee's Best Light

Beer brands with 5 or higher SmartPoints values
Molson Canadian
Samuel Adams
Peroni Nastro Azzurro

On the bright side, beer has very little sugar and even contains some B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Some studies show that moderate drinking may help lower risk of heart disease, particularly in women over 55 and men over 45. Keep in mind: "moderate" for women means no more than one drink per day. (For men, it's no more than two.) Exceed your quota, and the risk of heart and liver disease, stroke and accidents negate any health perks.

So can a cold one fit into your daily SmartPoints target? Sure, as long as you choose your brew with care.

Don't follow the lite
The terms "light" and "lite" (or any other cutesy variation) have no legal definition. They could mean the beer is light in colour or lighter than lead — or anything else the staff at the brewery decided. Instead, look for the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) on the label.

Look for “low carb” labeling 
If the label reads "low carbohydrate," the beer must have no more than 7 grams of carbohydrates per serving. But any beer can tout "reduced carbohydrates" or "lower carbohydrates" on its label, just so long as the brewery makes a more carb-heavy beer. Sneaky, right?

Use a glass
A tip that adds civility and can shave SmartPoints: "Pour a beer into two glasses at dinner like you would with wine," says George F. Reisch, brewmaster for Anheiser Busch, Inc. "I actually think people should share beers more. It's smart and your last sip will still be cold."

Nix the nuts
Those autopilot grabs of peanuts, cheddar fish or any salty snack food can add up to triple the calories and SmartPoints values of the beer you drink. Be prepared: Drinking can lead to snacking, so keep the right stuff on hand — or see if you can charm the bartender into stocking better choices. Instead of party mix, try:

Unsalted pretzels 1 oz 3 SmartPoints values
Light, microwave-popped popcorn 3 cups 2 SmartPoints values
Radishes (a German favourite) 1 cup 0 SmartPoints values