Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating - 3rd Edition by Hope Warshaw



Alcohol and Diabetes

by Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM


Copyright © 2005 by The American Diabetes Association.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, The American Diabetes Association.

For more information or to order this book, please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-232-6733, or visit

Restaurant Dilemmas and Diabetes


Clearly there are numerous reasons not to drink alcohol. Alcohol is high in calories (unhealthy calories). It can cause low blood glucose if you take an oral diabetes medication or insulin that can cause low blood glucose. It can lead to health problems with overuse, can slow your responses, and can be dangerous if you drink and drive. However, if your blood glucose and blood lipids are in good control and you drink sensibly, there is no reason you cannot enjoy some alcohol. And a common time to drink alcohol is when you eat in a restaurant. Here's how to drink smartly with diabetes.

Tips to Sip By

  • Don't drink when your blood glucose is below 80 mg/dl (4.44 mmol/l) or you have symptoms of hypoglycemia.
  • Remember that alcohol can cause low blood glucose soon after you drink it (if your medicine is working hardest and/or you need to eat). It can continue to cause low blood glucose 8-12 hours after you drink it, especially if you drink in excess, take too much medicine, or don't eat enough.
  • Don't drink on an empty stomach. Either munch on a carbohydrate source (popcorn or pretzels) as you drink or wait to drink until you get your meal.
  • Alcohol can also make blood glucose too high. This is true for anyone with diabetes, no matter how they control it. High blood glucose can be caused by the calories from carbohydrate in the alcoholic beverage, such as wine or beer, on in a mixer, such as orange juice.
  • Avoid mixers that add lots of carbohydrates and calories – tonic water, regular soda, syrups, juices, and liqueurs.
  • Check your blood glucose to help you decide whether you should drink and when you need to eat something.
  • Wear or carry identification that states you have diabetes.
  • Sip a drink to make it last.
  • At a meal have a noncaloric, nonalcoholic beverage by your side to quench your thirst.
  • If you do not take a diabetes medicine that can cause low blood glucose and you have some pounds to shed, you can substitute an alcoholic drink for fats in your meal plan.
  • If you do not have to lose weight, then just have an occasional drink and don't worry about the extra calories.
  • Do not drive for several hours after you drink alcohol. Never drink and drive.

Last Modified Date: June 03, 2014

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by Brenda Bell
Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...
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