Alcohol advice

What you need to know

Before drinking alcohol it is important to ask your specialist team if it would be medically safe to do so, and if there is any information specific to you. Advice can differ depending on the type of condition that you have. If you are able to enjoy alcohol in moderation, remember that:

  • The legal drinking age in the UK and Ireland is 18 years of age 
  • Some alcoholic drinks contain protein. If you choose to have these drinks you must count them as exchanges in the usual way (more information below) 
  • Even if your specialist team have advised that it is safe for you to consume alcohol, it is important to always drink responsibly
  • Women should not consume any alcohol at all while pregnant.

What is responsible drinking?

The recommended weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines in Ireland are less than:

  • 11 standard drinks for women
  • 17 standard drinks for men

Drinks should be spread out over the week.

Have 2 to 3 alcohol-free days per week. Drink no more than 6 standard drinks on any one occasion.

A unit of alcohol is equal to:

  • Approximately 1/2 pint lager (4%)
  • 1/2 a standard (175ml) glass of wine (13%)
  • 1 x 25ml spirit (40%)

Please note: These units of alcohol are not the same as protein exchanges

Protein content of alcoholic drinks

Please see below for some general guidelines on the protein content of some common alcoholic drinks. However, remember that the ingredients in commercially available foods and drinks constantly change , so always check the product labels and use the list below as a guide only. Contact your dietitian for further information.

Drinks containing only a trace of protein

The following alcoholic drinks can usually be drunk without counting them as protein exchanges in the diet*.

  • CIDER: Dry, sweet and vintage cider
  • MARTINI: Dry and sweet
  • SPIRITS: Whisky, gin, rum, brandy, vodka, Pimms
  • LIQUEURS: Cherry Brandy and Curacao
  • FORTIFIED WINES: Port, sherry and Madeira
  • WINE: Red & White – sweet, medium & dry
  • ALCOPOPS: e.g. Hooch
  • BOTTLED SHANDY: Bottled shandy is classed as a soft drink as the alcohol content must not be above 0.5% v/v. (Shandy made in a pub is stronger. See advice on ‘Drinks containing significant protein’)
  • GINGER BEER: Usually this is a soft drink without alcohol (check the label for aspartame if you have PKU). If buying alcoholic ginger beer always check the label.

Drinks containing significant amounts of protein

The following alcoholic drinks contain some protein and need to be counted as part of your low protein diet*:
BEER (All beer, brown ale, lager, pale ale, stout and stout extra) 1 pint = 1 1/2 exchanges
GUINNESS/MURPHY’S 1 pint = 2 exchanges
STRONG ALE 250ml = 1 1/2 exchanges
PUB SHANDY 1 pint = 1/2 exchange
CREAM LIQUEUR'S (Bailey’s Irish Cream, Cadbury’s Cream Liqueur) 30ml = 1 exchange**

* Always check the protein level on all labels before consumption. Please speak to your doctor or dietitian if you have any queries or concerns about the protein content or suitability of the products shown above.

Please note: the above exchange values are equal to 1g protein. If you have a condition that uses a different exchange value please speak to your specialist team for advice.

Drinks containing high levels of protein

ADVOCAAT: This drink contains egg yolk and is therefore high in protein and must not be taken if following a low protein diet.

Note: The information provided on this page is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace the care, advice and medical supervision of your healthcare professional. If you have any questions about the information provided here, please speak to your doctor or dietitian.

Check out the NHS website for more information on alcohol and general health.