Diabetes and holiday drinking: 7 tips for playing it safe

Having diabetes doesn't mean you need to give up hot toddies, white Russians or peppermint schnapps during the holidays.

This time of year, however, the temptation to go overboard on cheerful libations is strong.

Playing it safe

Keep your blood sugar balanced with these tips for handling alcohol consumption at those parties and gatherings:

  1. Know how much is in one drink. While drinking guidelines for diabetics are similar to those without diabetes, it's important to know exactly how much a "serving size" is when you drink. According to the American Diabetes Association, one drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (e.g. vodka, whiskey or rum).
  2. Eat before you drink. One of the worst things you can do as a diabetic is to drink on an empty stomach – or when your blood glucose is low. Pair your drink with a snack that has some protein and healthy fat, like a handful of nuts or low-fat cheese.
  3. Don't "save" your calories for booze.. It can be tempting to swap food calories for alcohol calories, especially when you know you're going to eating more than usual. But avoid doing this, and also don't count your alcohol as your part of your total carbohydrate limit for the day.
  4. Alternate beverages.. While it's recommended that women drink no more than one drink per day and men no more than two, you might end up having more this time of year. If that's the case, stay hydrated by having a zero-calorie drink like water or iced tea in between alcoholic beverages – or, better yet, in place of them.
  5. Watch your mixers.. If you're having mixed drinks, make sure to opt for calorie-free beverages like diet soda, club soda or diet tonic water.
  6. Check your blood glucose before and after drinking. Since alcohol consumption can cause hypoglycemia up to 24 hours after drinking, check your blood sugar level before and after you drink – especially before bed. If it's too low, eat something to raise it.
  7. Plan to be tempted. Alcohol will tend to lower your resolve around food. Plan for this temptation, and have healthy snacks available to munch on if you get cravings. Raw vegetables with low-fat dips or dressings will fill you up without sending your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.

Source: American Diabetes Association

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