Diabetes friendly alcoholic drinks.

by Jessica Amos. Last updated: 5 years, 5 months ago.

Diabetes and alcohol often do not go hand-in-hand, but, by carefully planning an evening out, people with diabetes can still often enjoy the occasional drink. However, it is important to know what you’re drinking and how it affects your blood glucose levels and diabetes. This means for example, keeping your sugary mixers to a minimum (or totally avoid them) or for example avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Remember that the official guidelines state that the safe limit for drinking alcohol is two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Please see NHS alcohol guidelines for upto date guidelines. Before you start to drink, ask yourself the following questions:

If you can answer the above questions and not alarm yourself, it is probably safe for you to drink.

Beers, Ales and Ciders

Everyone loves beer! However, with diabetes, extra care needs to be taken while consuming beer. Drinks such as beers, ales, ciders for example contain carbohydrates and will increase your blood glucose levels in the short term. Avoid the so called low sugar or sometimes called the diabetic beers and cider. Although they contain less sugar, the alcohol content is almost always higher. Infact most have twice the alcohol and calories as regular beer. It is worth noting that as little as one pint of a low sugar beer can bring your blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

Typically, the carbohydrate content in beers vary between 10 to 15g per pint. Some so called light beers may be better and have less than 10g of carbs per pint and some with less 5g of carbs. On the other hand, the carbohydrate contents in stouts such as Guinness can be upwards of 20g per pint. On the lower end, Pilsners are thought to have a relatively mild effect on blood sugar. However, we advise you to stick to the daily alcohol limits and just as with any drink amongst this list, it’s best if you can test to be sure what effect they’re having on your blood glucose levels.

Liquor: Whisky, Vodka and other spirits

Distilled liquors such as whisky or vodka do not contain any significant amount of carbohydrates and therefore are more likely to cause a drop in blood sugar, especially if you drink it straight (neat), without any sugary mixers (such as coca-cola or energy drinks) or on a completely empty stomach. One shot (ounce) of liquor, depending on the alcohol proof strength, has roughly about the same amount of alcohol as 5 ounces of wine. While liquor it is often carb-free, mixers like soda (sparkling water) and juice can lead to high blood sugar levels. To avoid a sugar spike, mix your liquor with a calorie-free drink like water or soda. Further, to avoid a hypo, eat a light amount of carbs (e.g. bread) before you drink - this is ensure that you do not drink on an empty stomach, which is often the cause for low sugar.

Cocktails and other sugary alcoholic drinks

Cocktails such as margaritas and mojitos are relatively safe for drink for diabetics, if sugar free mixers and fresh fruit juices are used instead of syrup based sugar substitutes. At this point, it is worth mentioning Bloody Mary - this drink contains about 20g of carbs per drink. If you are fond of this drink, remember to make it without any alcohol and substitute the regular tomato juice for low sodium/carb tomato juice. Always remember, if in doubt, drink water.

General guidelines for drinking for people suffering with diabetes

  • Never drink on an empty stomach.
  • Drinking can affect your blood sugar for up to 12 hours. Therefore, ensure that you test your blood sugar before going to bed.
  • Symptoms of low blood sugar can look and feel the same as being drunk. Always carry your ID and ask your friends to help you out if you feel dizzy.
  • Eat a snack that has carbohydrates when you drink.
  • Do not mix alcohol with diabetes pills such as Diabinese.
  • Always restrict yourself to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.