How to Use Alcohol in Diabetes Meal Planning


It is a common belief that diabetics are not allowed to drink any alcohol at all. This is not true, but you should drink it in modera­tion because alcohol has an immediate effect on blood glucose, it’s high in calories, and it tends to stimulate your appetite.

Twelve ounces of light beer, 8 oz. of regular beer, 4 oz. of wine, and 1.5 oz. of hard liquor each contain one hundred calo­ries. If you take insulin, don’t try to compensate for the calories in alcohol by cutting back on food intake. You need all the nutrients in your meal plan. If you’re not on insulin, do deny yourself some carbohydrate food in order to make up for the alcohol calories.

Can I Drink Alcohol

You should not have more than two alcohol equivalents a day, and you should separate the two drinks by at least two hours. An alcohol equivalent is either a 4 oz. glass of wine, a 12 oz. light beer, or a mixed drink containing 1.5 oz. of hard liquor diluted with diet mixer. This means two drinks on any one day. In other words, if you go for a week or two, or even a month, with­out having a drink, you cannot “make up” for not drinking on those days by having more than two drinks when next you drink.

Alcohol’s effect on blood glucose is immediate and signifi­cant. You know how fast it gets into your bloodstream because you can feel how fast it reaches your brain. In fact, unlike food, al­cohol is absorbed directly from the stomach into the bloodstream and is carried to the liver where it is metabolized (broken down, absorbed by cells, and then excreted). While the liver is working on the alcohol, it “forgets” to release glucose so your blood glu­cose levels can sink to dangerous lows in a very short time. The reaction can last for a very long time—up to thirty-six hours, well after you have recovered from the other effects of drinking.

In addition to the fact that alcohol is fattening and plays tricks on your liver, it also can worsen diabetic neuropathy, and if you are taking the oral hypoglycemic Diabinese, you may experi­ence harmless but frightening facial flushing and you may get a bad headache.

Try to reserve alcohol consumption for special occasions instead of a regular part of your life. You don’t need wine with dinner every evening, and if you regularly stop off at a bar on the way home from work, you ought to look at why you need to drink as a celebration for leaving work or as a shield to face going home. But if you don’t want to give up the ritual or the camaraderie, every now and then ask for a nonalcoholic beer or a half-strength mixed drink.

At parties and receptions where there is a bartender, ask for a half-strength drink (and watch the bartender as the alcohol is poured), and on the second go-round, have your glass filled only with mixer. That way you can have a glass of wine with dinner.

When you don’t want to drink or when you have had your quota for the day, simply say, “No, thank you.” Say it with a smile and don’t offer any explanations if you choose not to. This is what recovering alcoholics do, and most people are getting used to ac­cepting that some friends and colleagues choose not to drink.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach, as the alcohol will reach your bloodstream even faster with no food to absorb at least part of it. If you are going to a restaurant where a drink is the first thing served, eat a snack before you leave the house or office, or if you are having an appetizer, ask that yours be served with your drink. At dinner at someone else’s house, eat a few appetizers be­fore you have your drink. If there aren’t appetizers, and you don’t know the hosts well enough to go into the kitchen to get a little snack, don’t have an alcoholic drink until dinner.

Problem Drinking

If, when your diabetes was diagnosed, you had an alcohol problem or if you are an outright alcoholic, you must stop drink­ing altogether; if you haven’t already, call up your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and attend a meeting. AA is proba­bly the most effective way to help people stop drinking, but it is not the only one. Decide how you want to stop drinking and then do it.

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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