Nutrition Articles

Eating with Diabetes: Alcoholic Beverages

How Alcohol Affects Your Blood Sugar


Alcohol can interfere with your blood glucose control, both raising and lowering blood sugar. Once in your system, alcohol initially lowers blood sugar, which can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). To minimize your chances of experiencing a hypoglycemic reaction caused by drinking alcohol keep these tips in mind.

  • If you take some certain oral diabetes medications or insulin, drinking alcoholic beverages can increase your risk for having a hypoglycemic reaction.
  • Alcohol consumption makes it harder to recognize symptoms of a low blood sugar reaction. Dizziness, confusion, and blurry vision are a few symptoms of low blood glucose that are also symptoms that you may have had too much to drink.
  • Don’t drink alcohol alone. It is best to drink with someone who is aware you have diabetes, and is able to recognize and treat hypoglycemia.
  • Do not substitute alcohol for food. Always drink alcoholic beverages with a meal or with snacks containing carbohydrates; never imbibe on an empty stomach.
Some alcoholic beverages can raise your blood sugar because of their high carbohydrate content. To prevent your blood sugar from going to high, avoid sweet wines, liqueurs, and sweetened drinks like daiquiris, margaritas, pina coladas, etc. and choose lower-carb drinks. Be sure to account for these carbohydrates when planning your meals and snacks.

Calories and Carbs in Alcoholic Beverages
Makers of alcoholic beverages are not required to post nutrition facts on their labels, so it can be difficult to know how many calories and carbs various drinks really contain. The following provides some general ranges.

Beverage Serving Size Calories Carbohydrates
Beer, regular 12 oz 150 13 g
Beer, light 12 oz 100 5 g
Beer, non-alcoholic 12 oz 75 16 g
Distilled spirits* 1.5 oz 100 trace
Martini 5 oz 310 4 g
Wine, red 4 oz 80 2 g
Wine, white 4 oz 80 1 g

*Does not include mixer

For anyone trying to eat healthier, manage their weight, or control their diabetes, the guidelines for drinking alcohol can be a confusing cocktail to swallow. Use your best judgment when it comes to drinking, and talk with your health care provider for more specific guidelines.

For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.
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About The Author

Amy L. Poetker Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.

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