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Fitting Alcohol Into Your Meal Plan

The use of alcohol should be discussed with your physician and healthcare team. As a general guideline, for persons using insulin, two alcoholic beverages may be used in addition to their regular meal plan. No food should be omitted in exchange for an alcoholic drink. For persons who are not on insulin and are watching their weight, alcohol is best substituted for fat choices and in some cases extra bread/starch choices.

Some alcoholic beverages contain higher amounts of sugar and carbohydrate — these include sweet wines, sweet vermouth and wine coolers. Use these sparingly as they may increase your blood glucose levels too much. Additional guidelines for the use of alcohol are printed below. 

Beverage             Amount     Calories Carbo-   Equal to:
  Regular beer       12 ounces   150     14       1 starch & 
1-1/2 fats Light beer 12 ounces 100 6 2 fats Nonalcoholic beer 11 ounces 50 10 1 starch Distilled spirits 1.5 ounces 105 trace 2 fats 86 proof (gin, rum vodka, whiskey, scotch, bourbon) Wine red table or rose 4 ounces 85 1.0 2 fats dry white 4 ounces 80 .4 2 fats sweet wine 2 ounces 90 6.5 1/2 starch &
1-1/2 fats light wine 4 ounces 55 1.3 1 fat wine coolers 12 ounces 190 22.0 1-1/2 fruit
& 3 fat champagne 4 ounces 100 3.6 2 fats sherry 2 ounces 75 1.5 1-1/2 fats sweet sherry/port 2 ounces 95 7.0 1/2 starch &
1-1/2 fats Vermouths dry 3 ounces 105 4.2 2 fats sweet 3 ounces 140 13.9 1 starch
& 2 fats

General Guidelines for the Use of Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are a common part of our social lives. Each adult must decide whether or not to use alcohol. When making this decision, you should understand what the potential effects of alcohol are on your health. Although alcohol has little effect on blood glucose control, it may worsen other medical problems. Make sure you discuss the use of alcohol with your doctor.

Use alcohol only in moderation

With your doctor's approval, alcohol should be limited to two drinks a day. A "drink" is defined as a 12 ounce beer (preferably light beer), a 4 ounce glass or wine or a 2 ounce glass of dry sherry or 1.5 ounces of a distilled beverage, such as whiskey, rye, vodka or gin. Sip your drink slowly and make it last a long time.

Alcohol has calories

Even though your doctor may approve the use of alcohol, if you are trying to lose weight, you still may want to avoid it. Alcoholic beverages give you calories without any nutritional value. If you do drink, select some of the lower calorie choices.

Never drink on an empty stomach

Alcoholic beverages can make your blood glucose drop. Avoid the risk of a low blood glucose by having your drink at meal time, or having a snack along with the drink.

Avoid drinks that contain large amounts of sugar

The carbohydrate content of alcoholic drinks will vary. Limit those with sugar as they will have a higher amount of carbohydrates and may therefore contribute to a high blood glucose. Avoid sweet mixers and use sugar-free products.

Drink with caution - carry identification

Signs and symptoms of low blood glucose and intoxication are similar! If you take insulin, don't get into a situation where you may be drinking on an empty stomach and getting hypoglycemic — and your friends just think you are a little "tipsy." Make sure your companions know you have diabetes and know how to treat an insulin reaction. Always wear identification that you have diabetes.

Some medications may not mix with alcohol

It is not advised to drink if you are taking certain medications. People taking oral hypoglycemic agents may have a reaction to the alcohol. Discuss this with your doctor.

See our latest cookbooks and nutrition books at the Joslin Store.

Page last updated: October 15, 2019