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Getting together with friends and relatives is a favorite part of the holidays. If you have diabetes, though, it’s best to add some caution to your holiday cheer. Sweets abound, and there is usually more food around than we need. Add too much alcohol and you could be headed for trouble.

Usually, when your blood sugar level drops, your liver changes stored carbohydrate into glucose to raise the level again. But if the liver is busy breaking down alcohol, it can’t help when your blood sugar level falls. As a result, you can wind up with very low blood sugar. Alcohol also may interfere with some diabetes medications. It’s best to talk with your doctor about alcohol. You may be able to drink some alcohol—or none.

Try these tips for happy—and healthy—holidays:

  • Eat first. Always eat before drinking any alcohol. Emphasize complex carbohydrates or proteins that will be digested and release sugar into the bloodstream slowly.

  • Take a close look. Check out everything at the dessert table before you take anything. Then make a conscious decision about what you’ll pick.

  • Balance your choices. Desserts with sugar can still be part of special occasions when you have diabetes. But remember that they count toward your total carbohydrates. You shouldn’t just add holiday desserts to what you would usually eat. Instead, cut carbohydrates elsewhere in your meal so that you can have dessert without adding to your total carbohydrates.

  • Try alternatives. Keep a nonalcoholic beverage, like a diet soda, in hand.

  • Keep alcohol in a safe range. Mix club soda with dry wine for a low-alcohol, low-sugar wine cooler.

  • Make a nighttime check. Check your blood sugar level before bed. You may need to eat a bedtime snack to avoid nighttime low blood sugar.

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