St. Patty’s day is just around the corner, and that means lots of beer. In fact, in 2016, 4.4 billion dollars was spent on beer on St. Patty’s day in the US alone! We want you to have fun and stay safe this holiday, so here it is – our diabetes-friendly beer guide!
(If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes or have another illness affected by alcohol, consult your physician about drinking alcohol and check out the American Diabetes Association’s page on Alcohol safety.)
Choose a Bottle Over a Pint
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends no more than 1, 12-ounce beer per day for women and 2, 12-ounce beers per day for men. A standard bottle is 12 ounces, while a pint is 16 ounces. Following these serving sizes will help to prevent blood sugar complications.
Enjoy a Beer With Your Meal
When alcohol is consumed, the body must focus energy on eliminating it. This means blood sugar regulation is interrupted, leading to a potential for hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar). When consumed on an empty stomach or in excess, the carbs in beer can cause blood sugar to spike and then fall quickly. To help keep your blood sugar stable, enjoy your beer with a meal to slow alcohol absorption. As a bonus, this is a great opportunity to try some Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, or corned beef and cabbage.
Be Mindful of the ABV
Beers have a moderate amount of carbs in them, and generally have 2-12% ABV (Alcohol by volume). Those with lower ABVs will have closer to 6 grams of carbs, whereas higher ABV beers may have as much as 20-30 grams per 12-ounce bottle. If you’re drinking from the tap and don’t have a beer’s nutrition facts, sticking with beers that have an ABV of 7% or less can help keep your carb load in check.
The Beer Color Myth
Do darker beers have more sugar and alcohol content? Not necessarily. Darker beers arise from grains (like barley) that have been malted and roasted. The longer a malt is roasted, the darker it will be. The color is related to malt roasting, not carb or alcohol content.
Drink with Friends
St. Patty’s is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with friends. If you feel comfortable, let your friends know you have diabetes and that hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) has similar symptoms to drinking too much (dizziness confusion, lightheadedness). If you are sharing drinks with people who do not know about your diabetes, it is even more important to practice good self-care and prevention of low blood sugar.
Check Blood Sugar More Frequently
Staying within the Blood Sugar Safe Zone is important, even on holidays. Check your blood sugar before, during, and up to 24 hours after drinking. Before going to bed, your blood sugar should be between 100-140 mg/dL. If your reading is below this, have a snack with carbs and protein to bring it up.
A Note on Insulin and Insulin-stimulating Medications
If you take medication, be extra cautious. Insulin and insulin-stimulating medications such as the sulfonylureas (diabetes meds ending in ‘-ide”) may require alteration when consuming alcohol. Consult your diabetes healthcare provider for how to take your medications on days you consume alcohol. Do not count beer carbohydrates when calculating insulin dosing.
A St. Patty’s Day Recipe
Boozed Corned Beef And Cabbage
For the Corned Beef:
1 pound corned beef
½ cup Irish stout or beer of choice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head of cabbage, cut into wedges
6 red potatoes
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 yellow onions, sliced
Preheat oven to 300F/150C. Rinse the beef and pat dry. Place beef in dutch oven or roasting pan and rub with brown sugar, garlic, pepper, and thyme. Pour beer over top and cover with lid or foil. Bake for 1 ½ hours.
Remove lid and surround beef with vegetables. Re-cover and continue baking for another hour. Serve with spicy mustard.
Connect with Brook Experts on the app to answer questions before, during, or after going out for a drink.