How Drinks and Bar Snacks Can Fit into Your Diabetic Meal Plan
Alcohol is not a carbohydrate, so alcohol doesn’t raise blood glucose levels directly; however, alcohol stores more energy per gram than the 4 calories per gram in carbohydrates or protein, and almost as much as the 9 calories per gram stored in fat. So, at 7 calories per gram 1 ounce of 80 proof liquor adds about 60 calories to your day.
Alcoholic beverages are rarely just alcohol, however, and a 12-ounce beer can come in at 150 calories, a glass of wine about the same, and mixed drinks or liqueurs can bring along two or three times as many calories. Beer, wine, and many mixed drinks and liqueurs also contain carbohydrate, and the grams can vary significantly by brand or according to the mixer.
Bar snacks aren’t free foods, either. Twenty pretzel sticks is 120 calories and 26 grams of carbohydrate, and 1 ounce of beer nuts can bring along 185 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrate — an ounce of beer nuts is only about 25 or 30 nuts.
Many snack mixes get their calories from carbohydrate and fat, complicating blood glucose control if you’re eating mindlessly. A 1-ounce nibble of some snack mixes can add 15 to 25 grams of unexpected carbohydrate to your diabetes meal plan.
If you have a tequila sunrise with 1 ounce of the free snack mix before dinner, you’re starting out with 325 calories and three carb choices (45 grams carbohydrate) already in your tank. That may be OK if you made the drink and snacks part of your advanced meal planning, but if you’re not planning on a drink and bar snacks, be sure to make a specific plan not to have a drink and bar snacks.
Leaving more than 300 calories and 45 grams of carbohydrate up to chance is no way to do meal planning unless you’re equally prepared to deduct that amount from what you intended to have for dinner.
Just to be clear, you can have a drink and some bar snacks without cashing in the big calories and carbohydrates before your meal. Drinks are easy to research, and you can find one you like that’s lower in calories and carbohydrates than the 200 calorie, 25 grams of carbohydrate tequila sunrise.
A glass of wine will usually have less than 5 grams of carbohydrate, low-carb beers are popular still, and liquor with a sugar-free mixer contains no carbohydrates. Plus, you can ask the bartender to modify recipes just like you’re prepared to ask a chef.
The snacks are a different story. Most nuts might load in extra calories but are very low in carbohydrate; however, the mixed snacks with crackers, pretzels, and sesame sticks are going to be carbohydrate rich. If you can’t avoid them completely, put a small amount on a napkin or plate to eat slowly, and ask someone to remove the remainder from your field of vision.