Nutrition Articles

Eating with Diabetes: Alcoholic Beverages

How Alcohol Affects Your Blood Sugar

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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.

Member Comments

  • Yes, the crystal light cocktail flavors do make a nice drink, but you still have to keep control. Easy to drink a few of these quickly. I put it in a martini glass which makes it really feel like a cocktail even without the vodka. - 11/17/2013 4:31:35 PM
    Why drink? There are better sources of antioxidants, and there are much better ways to relax. - 9/3/2013 8:51:17 AM
  • W - 5/2/2012 3:25:31 PM
  • I'm not a big drinker, but wanted to add that the Mojito flavored Crystal Light "Mocktails" is awesome. Never dawned on me to add a touch of alcohol to it, sometimes things can stare you right in the face huh? - 5/2/2012 1:44:49 PM
  • I forgot to add in moderation of course. My mother has diabetes and she drinks a small glass once per week and her numbers are fine. Definetly something to discuss with your health provider of course. - 5/2/2012 1:33:32 PM
  • I still believe in the power of a glass of red wine - 5/2/2012 1:31:31 PM
  • I live in Manitoba. Where do you buy Crystal Light Mocktails? I would like to give them a try. - 5/2/2012 12:08:23 PM
  • Yes, I just got my first Mocktail mix. We will see!

    I was under the impression that alcohol is processed by your liver into fat (well, acetyl CoA anyway), not glucose. This is kind of like how fructose is processed. Thus, actual alcohol should have very little affect on blood sugar even though it is a carbohydrate. That said, many alcoholic beverages are filled with carbohydrates that ARE processed into glucose. In Germany, they call beer, liquid bread! Also, excess alcohol being processed into fat leads to fatty liver, which is also a bad thing for diabetics! - 5/2/2012 11:28:17 AM
  • Thanks for the chart.

    And TAMMY8395's comments have prompted me to add Crystal Light's Mocktails to my shopping list!

    Slainte' - 5/2/2012 10:13:45 AM
  • GUSMOM61
    Crystal Light has a product called Mocktails that is very good. You can substitute the appropriate alcohol for a portion of the water. We have found that when we make the product at the recommended strength, the flavors are not quite strong enough to really represent the "real" beverage it is mocking. So, we only add enough water/alcohol combination to get the flavor we like. They have quite a variety to choose from and our favorites have been margarita (which really gets a real flavor if you add a little freshly squeezed lime), appletini, and a cranberry flavor that is great with vodka. Yum! - 3/28/2012 11:55:28 AM

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