With longer days, warmer weather and the party season in full swing, the prospect of a coldie or a glass of bubbly has never seemed more inviting. Australians aren’t known for holding back when it comes to festive tippling, but it can be tough knowing where to draw the line when you have diabetes. And while it doesn’t mean you have to be a teetotaller, you do need to take extra care with alcohol.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian aged 15 and over downs more than 15 standard alcoholic drinks a week, two-thirds of them consumed in excess of the recommended daily maximum of two drinks. Christmas is especially problematic because much of our alcohol intake tends to be concentrated into one or two celebratory days and, when everyone around you is guzzling the grog, it can be hard to hold back – particularly when you’re pressured to ‘live a little’.
But while other people may have only their intoxication levels to worry about, having diabetes means you’re faced with the added concern of staying on top of your blood sugar levels. And, depending on what you’re drinking, these can go up through extra sugar or go down due to the glucose-lowering impact of alcohol.
This is why it’s important to check BGLs regularly when you’re drinking alcohol and have extra carbs before going to bed to avoid night-time hypos. For this reason, it’s sensible to tell friends you have diabetes, in case they mistake symptoms of hypoglycaemia for drunkenness. Drinking responsibly need not be a big deal so, if you need help in finding a way, take these tips with you when you go out to play.
1. Quench your thirst
When you’re dry, your first and second drinks can easily go down without touching the sides. The result? You’re tipsy before you’ve started and you’ve barely tasted a drop. Instead, slake your thirst with a soft drink and stay the distance.
2. Go the H2O
Following each alcoholic drink with a glass of water will help keep you hydrated and full. Remember, it is law in Australia that any place that serves alcohol must provide tap water free of charge.
3. Dilute your drinks
Make your glass last twice as long by adding soda to white wine for a spritzer or turning a nip of spirits into a long drink and beer into a refreshing shandy with low-sugar mixers. The saving? Reduced sugar intake, up to 100kJ per standard drink – and no hangover.
4. Don’t be afraid to BYO
Unless a host knows you have diabetes, there’s no guarantee of diet mixers or soft drinks, making it harder to resist alcohol. Taking your own – whether it’s diet soft drinks, sugar-free alcopops, non-alcoholic beers or wines, or low-carb beers – means you know what’s on the label and can stay in control of both your blood sugar and alcohol levels.
5. Savour your favourite
If you love beer but detest the light or low-carb versions, less is definitely more if you indulge yourself with a little of what you like instead of having lashings of the alternative.
6. Set yourself a limit
You know how much grog you can handle, so set a cut-off drinking point before you go out, then stick to it.
7. Only refill when empty
Allowing the host or waiter to constantly top up your glass makes it hard to keep a handle on how much you’ve quaffed. Keeping a tally helps you know when to stop.
8. offer to be the driver
Your companions will have good reason to respect your decision not to drink. This is the safest way to keep your reactions sharp.
9. Keep the Pressure down
No-one can tell if you’re drinking orange or apple juice with soda if it’s served in a champagne flute, or non-alcoholic beer or wine when you’re drinking from a regular glass. Such ‘cheat’ drinks may have the same kilojoules as fruit juice, but allow you to stay off the grog without drawing attention.
10. STAY off the hook
The odd white lie will help you dodge the ‘killjoy’ tag – no-one will question your excuse that you’re on medication that doesn’t mix with alcohol, or having an early-morning blood test.
11. Know your triggers
If your nerves make you drink quickly, plan some confidence-building social strategies. Smile as you enter a room, so you look positive, have conversation starters up your sleeve and ask questions so others talk while you listen. Less stress will help you to sip instead of gulp.
12. Calm down
Alcohol is synonymous with relaxation, but if you’re using it to take the edge off a hard day, you need to find another form of stress management. Take time to chill before that first drink and make alcohol a choice, not a necessity.