Food/Nutrition Columnist
Have Diabetes? Think Before You Drink
Jun 9, 2014 - 12:05:50 AM

( - After being diagnosed with diabetes, many wonder if they can still enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or an occasional cocktail. The simple answer is, yes. As with many issues related to diabetes management there is good news and bad news. The good news is that light to moderate use of alcohol lowers the risk for diabetes and raises your HDL (good) cholesterol. The bad news is that heavy drinking increases the risk for prediabetes and diabetes and can complicate management of your condition.

There are a number of things to consider when adding alcohol to your diabetic meal plan. The amount you drink is the key. It is wise to limit alcoholic drinks to 1 a day for women and 2 for men.

1 Alcoholic Drink Equals:

Hard alcoholic drinks -- gin, vodka, whiskey, rum -- do not contain carbs so they do not require insulin to be used for energy and they do not cause blood sugar to go up. Mixed drinks and wine do contain carbs and may raise your blood sugar. They need to be counted into your daily carb intake. Here are examples of the calories and carbs in some common drinks.

Carbs (grams)                 Calories

Bloody Mary                                                    5                               150

Champagne                                                    3                               84

Chianti wine                                                    4                               125

Gin and tonic                                                  16                             171

Long Island Iced tea                                        7                               292

Martini                                                            2                               206

Pina Colada                                                    32                             245

Red wine                                                        4                               125

Sangria                                                           8                               88

Whiskey Sour                                                  14                             162

White wine                                                      4                               121

When it comes to beer, light beer is very low in carb (6 grams and 100 calories) and does not need to be counted into your daily carb budget if you stick to one a day - don't overdo. Regular beer has more carb - 13 grams and 150 calories. One 12-ounce bottle should be counted as 1 carb choice in your daily carb budget.

If you drink daily, the calories from alcohol need to be added to your daily calorie intake. If you drink very infrequently, alcohol calories do not need to be counted. Infrequent drinking really does mean occasionally, like once a week.

You Should Know:

Binge drinking is never a good idea, but it is especially bad for a person with diabetes. It causes insulin resistance which puts you at greater risk for type 2 diabetes. Your body's cells can't recognize insulin and glucose (blood sugar) can't get out of the blood and into your cells. Binge drinking also makes it harder to control a healthy blood sugar level. Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women within 2 hours.

To find out more about managing diabetes and the carb and calorie values of over 190 alcohol drinks take a look at one of my latest books The Diabetes Counter, 5th Ed. (Pocket Books, 2014).

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.

Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with sales of more than 8.5 million books.

Look for:

The Diabetes Counter, 5th Ed., 2014

The Fat and Cholesterol Counter, 2014

The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013

The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013

The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012

The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011

The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010

The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:


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