Alcohol, is high in kilojoules, is nutrient poor and can lead to weight gain. Alcohol can be harmful to your health, the more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk. Even small amounts of alcohol are associated with increased risk of some cancers. Too much alcohol may also damage the liver and brain, and increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

No level of drinking alcohol can be guaranteed as completely safe. However, drinking alcohol within the recommended responsible limits will enable healthy adults to keep their risk of alcohol-related accidents, injuries, diseases and death low.

The NHMRC alcohol guidelines recommend that to reduce your risk of harm from alcohol:

  1. Adults

    To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.

  2. Children and people under 18 years of age

    To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.

  3. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

    Advice for pregnancy

    To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. 

    Advice for breastfeeding

    For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.

It is important to remember that factors such as gender, age, mental health, drug use and existing medical conditions can change how alcohol affects you.

'What is a standard drink?' infographic. Full text directly beneath the image.

What is a standard drink?

  • Light beer (2.7% alc/vol) 425 mL
  • Mid strength beer (3.5% alc/vol) 375 mL
  • Full strength beer (4.9% alc/vol) 285 mL
  • Regular cider (4.9% alc/vol) 285 mL 
  • Sparkling wine (13% alc/vol) 100 mL
  • Wine (13% alc/vol) 100 mL
  • Fortified wine e.g. sherry, port (20% alc/vol) 60 mL
  • Spirits e.g. vodka, gin, rum, whiskey (40% alc/vol) 30 mL

These quantities are quite small and this means that many single drinks, can be equivalent to more than one standard drink.

Tips when drinking alcohol

  • Aim for two alcohol free days per week.
  • When drinking alcohol, try to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks such as water or soda water.
  • Try a wine spritzer with mineral or soda water instead of a full glass of wine.
  • If having a glass of wine, don’t fill it to the top. One standard drink equals 100mL (less than half a cup).
  • Avoid snacking on foods high in salt. Not only is too much salt unhealthy, but it can also increase the likelihood of having another drink.
  • Avoid pre-mixed drinks with added sugars. These are very high in both kilojoules and sugars.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol with energy drinks. The caffeine reduces your ability to manage your alcohol intake. This can lead to a higher risk of alcohol-related harm.

Source: Dietitians Australia (formerly Dietitians Association of Australia) (2013): Smart Eating For You. Canberra, Australia.