Cheat Sheet: Beer

Beer belly? A total myth. Get the straight facts on all kinds of brews.
Published September 6, 2019

First, the good news: Beer bellies are a total myth, says Charles Bamforth, PhD, chair and professor at University of California, Davis's Department of Food Science and Technology, and author of Beer: Health and Nutrition. If drinking the beverage affects the scale, he says, "it's because your total calorie intake is too high and you're not working it off."

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," Bamforth says. "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.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent a Beer Belly

The WeightWatchers™ guide to beer

There are thousands of different beers out there. To minimize your Points spend while maximizing your enjoyment, keep this list in mind—and note these Points values.

  • The average 12-ounce beer with 5 percent alcohol by volume is 5 Points.

  • The typical 16-ounce draft pint is 6 Points.

  • Most 12-ounce "light" beers are 3 Points.

  • A 16-ounce pint of light beer has 4 Points.

  • A 12-ounce non-alcoholic beer has 2 Points.

Popular beer brands with 3 (or fewer) Points 

  • Heineken Premium Light

  • Coors Light

  • Grolsch Light

  • Miller Lite

  • Milwaukee's Best Light

  • Bud Light

  • Corona Light

  • Yuengling Light Lager

  • Busch Light

  • Michelob Ultra

Popular beer brands with 5 (or more) Points 

  • Molson Canadian

  • Bud Ice

  • Miller High Life

  • Samuel Adams

  • Foster's

  • Peroni Nastro Azzurro

  • Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR)

  • Blue Moon Belgian White

  • Guinness Draught Stout (Pasturized)

The perks of drinking beer occasionally

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 while 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 Points Budget? Sure, as long as you choose your brew with care.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Drinking Beer on WeightWatchers®

Tips for drinking beer on WW

1) 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 color 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.

2) 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?

3) Use a glass.
A tip that adds civility and can shave Points, too: "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."

4) Nix the nuts.

Those autopilot grabs of peanuts, cheddar fish, or any other salty snack food can add up to triple the calories and Points 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.