Alcoholic Drinks That Are Safe and (Unsafe) for Diabetics

When you’re diabetic, you have to maintain a careful balance in your diet to ensure your blood sugar levels are stable. And when it comes to alcohol, you probably assume it’s totally off limits. The American Diabetes Association reports alcohol can drop your blood glucose significantly. And if your liver’s stores of glucose are totally used up, this can lead to dangerously low levels or death in severe cases.

The good news is you can actually enjoy a drink if you do so in moderation (and of course, always ask your doctor about any restrictions you should follow). Here are the least offensive drinks for diabetics, followed by the worst ones.

Safer drinks for diabetics

Sommelier pours wine

Sommelier fills glasses of wine at a tasting | Berezko/Getty Images

No matter what you’re drinking, there are certain guidelines diabetics should follow. The ADA suggests women have only one drink per day, and men have two. Eating something fatty can also help keep your blood sugar levels stable while you’re drinking, so consider this. Also, make sure you’re staying hydrated by sipping on plenty of water, and let someone you’re out with know you’re diabetic.

Light beers: 

This recommendation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. These beers have a fraction of the sugar that a normal beer has, making them safer for diabetics to consume. And it turns out Bud Select 55 might be the best choice overall, Shape notes. Not only does one beer contain just 55 calories, but it also only has 1.8 grams of carbs. Compare this to a normal beer that can have up to 15 grams of carbs for one pint.

Dry wines:

If your drink of choice is wine, you’ll want to go with a dry red or white variety. WebMD notes there’s some research to suggest these wine types may actually help your body use insulin with more efficiency. And Shape notes there’s also good news for those who like Champagne, as it typically has the lowest number of carbs out of any wine.

Liquor on the rocks:

Stay away from those sugary mixers when you’re diabetic. If you prefer liquor, then order something that’s high-quality so you can enjoy it on the rocks. Alternatively, you can skip the rocks and have it neat — or add in a splash of water or sparkling water to cut the taste.

Classic cocktails with sugar-free ingredients:

As stated before, sugary mixers are a definite no-no for diabetics. But that doesn’t mean all cocktails have to be off limits. If you want something simple like a vodka-cranberry, ask your bartender if diet cranberry juice is available to make it basically carb-less. For cocktails you know involve many different sweetened elements (like a margarita), see if you can simplify it with good tequila, lime juice, a pinch of Stevia, a small splash of Triple Sec, and ice.

Drinks to skip

Fall cocktails

Fall cocktails | Rimma Bondarenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Sangria: This drink may be delicious, but it’s also jam-packed with sugar. Red wine aside, sangria typically involves brandy or orange liqueur, fruit juice, and fruit, which loads the drink with carbs. You’re much better off picking out a nice dry wine and putting a few pieces of fresh fruit in with a flavored sparkling water. Skip the excess juice and liqueur.

Dessert wines:

Some wines are perfect for sugar-lovers — and these are the ones you should be staying away from. One glass of dessert wine contains around 14 grams of carbs. You’re much better off with the low-carb sangria idea if a touch of sweetness if what you’re after.

Cocktails made with fruit juice:

As mentioned, certain cocktails are generally off limits for diabetics — and this includes margaritas, mudslides, mojitos, and daiquiris. Consider creating your own low-carb cocktails at home if you’re looking to go this route (and sugar-free sparkling waters come in plenty of flavors as a delicious and safe mixer to try).

Bloody Marys:

While not the “sweetest” tasting item on the list, you may be surprised to know that a Bloody Mary contains loads of carbs unfitting for a diabetic. WebMD suggests if you really want this cocktail, take out the alcohol and go for the virgin drink. Without the vodka, there are still 15 grams of carbs. Consume at your own risk.

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