What can diabetics drink besides water? In this article we will discuss diabetics and appropriate drinking of water. When it comes to healthy eating our body needs water more than almost anything else but there are others things too.As a diabetic, the question about what you can drink besides water comes up all the time. On top of that, most people don’t understand what diabetes is or the harsh effects it can have on your body. This is why I decided to create this post.
What You Can Drink, Besides Water, When You Have Diabetes
No doubt: Water is the perfect drink. It doesn’t have calories, sugar, or carbs, and it’s as close as a tap. If you’re after something tastier, though, you’ve got options.
Some tempting or seemingly healthy drinks aren’t great for you, but you can make swaps or easy homemade versions of many of them. These tasty treats can fit into your diabetes diet and still satisfy your cravings.
1. Chocolate Milk
This treat may remind you of the school lunchroom, but it’s a good calcium-rich choice for grown-ups as well. Low-fat chocolate milk can be a good post-workout recovery drink. The bad news: Ready-made brands come packed with sugar. Try this at home: Mix 1% milk, 3 teaspoons of cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of the zero-calorie sweetener of your choice. It saves you 70 calories, 16 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fat compared to 1 cup of store-bought, reduced-fat chocolate milk.
2. Sweet Tea
A 16-ounce fast-food version might have up to 36 grams of carbs. That’s a lot of sugar, especially when there are carb-free choices, like sugar-free iced tea or iced tea crystals, that are just as satisfying. But you can also easily make your own: Steep tea with your favorite crushed fruit (raspberries are a good choice). Strain, chill, and then sweeten with your choice of no-calorie sugar substitute. That’s a tall glass of refreshment.
3. Orange Juice
OJ tastes good, but with 26 grams of carbs in one cup, you’re a lot better off eating a whole orange instead. The fiber will help keep you full. If you really want to drink it, try an orange-flavored light fruit drink. Look for a brand with 3 grams of carbs, 15 calories, and 100% of your daily vitamin C.
4. Chai Latte
It’s sweet, spicy, fragrant, and creamy. What’s not to love? The typical coffeehouse version packs a whopping 33 grams of carbs. But you can easily make one that’s a lot lighter. Steep one or two chai tea bags in a cup of unsweetened almond milk or soy milk, and spice it up with cinnamon and black pepper for an extra flavor kick. That’s a warm treat with less than 1 gram of carbs.
Nothing says summer like this drink. But 16 ounces of a popular brand served at restaurants gives you 60 grams of carbs. Your best bet is to make lemonade at home. Mix water, fresh-squeezed lemons, zero-calorie sweetener, and ice for a truly refreshing beverage without a single carb or calorie in sight.
6. Hot Chocolate
It’s the ultimate in decadent drinks. Coffeehouse-style versions of this classic are packed with carbs. A typical medium hot chocolate made with low-fat milk has 60 grams. Good news: You can make your own satisfying mug for less than half that. Mix 1 cup of low-fat milk with 2 squares of 70% dark chocolate, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and a little cinnamon. Melt in a saucepan, and enjoy it for 23 grams of carbs.
7. Apple Cider
Few things beat a hot, fragrant cup of this when there’s a chill in the air and the leaves are turning colors. And though it may be farm-fresh, the cider packs the same amount of carbs per serving as plain-old apple juice — 26 grams per cup. Instead, choose a light apple juice cocktail, and you’ll cut the carbs and calories in half.
8. Energy Drinks
These pack plenty of caffeine per ounce, so depending on how much you drink, you could be guzzling way more than you realize. That’s a problem, since caffeine can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. Still want a jolt? Pick a sugar-free drink, and limit your total caffeine to no more than 400 milligrams over the course of a day.
9. Fruit Smoothie
It seems like a healthy choice, but store-bought versions almost always include a lot of carbs and sugar. One 12-ounce mango-flavored smoothie from a popular chain, for example, has 58.5 grams of carbs. That’s equal to an apple and a sandwich combined. Substitute a homemade berry smoothie, with half a cup each of blueberries, strawberries, and banana. Blend with some ice and enjoy for about half the amount of carbs.
Having diabetes means that you have to be aware of everything you eat or drink. Knowing the number of carbohydrates that you ingest and how they may affect your blood sugar is crucial.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends zero-calorie or low-calorie drinks. The main reason is to prevent a spike in blood sugar.
Choosing the right drinks can help you:
- avoid unpleasant side effects like blood sugar spikes
- manage your symptoms
- maintain a healthy weight
Zero- or low-calorie drinks are typically your best bet when choosing something to quench your thirst. Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into your drink for a refreshing, low-calorie kick.
Keep in mind that even low sugar options, such as vegetable juice, should be consumed in moderation.
Reduced fat dairy contains the naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose, so this beverage must be considered in your total carbohydrate allowance for the day.
Dairy options are also not considered a low-sugar beverage.
Whether you’re at home or at a restaurant, here are the most diabetes-friendly beverage options.
When it comes to hydration, water is the best option for people with diabetes. That’s because it won’t raise your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can cause dehydration.
Drinking enough water can help your body eliminate excess glucose through urine. The Institute of Medicine recommends adult men drink about 13 cups (3.08 liters) of day and women drink about 9 cups (2.13 liters).
If plain water doesn’t appeal to you, create some variety by:
- adding slices of lemon, lime, or orange
- adding sprigs of flavorful herbs, such as mint, basil, or lemon balm
- crushing a couple of fresh or frozen raspberries into your drink
2. Seltzer water
Seltzer water is a great fizzy, sugar-free alternative to other carbonated beverages, such as soda.
Like regular water, seltzer water is free of calories, carbs, and sugar. Carbonated water is a great way to stay hydrated and support healthy blood sugar levels.
There are many different flavors and varieties to choose from, or you can try adding some fresh fruit and herbs to give your drink a delicious twist.
ResearchTrusted Source has shown that green tea has a positive effect on your general health.
A large 2021 cohort study of more than a half million people suggestsTrusted Source that daily consumption of green tea may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed.
Whether you choose green, black, white, or oolong tea, avoid those with added sugars. For a refreshing taste, make your own iced tea and add a few slices of lemon.
4. Herbal tea
Herbal tea varieties like chamomile, hibiscus, ginger, and peppermint tea are all excellent options for people with diabetes.
Not only is herbal tea free of carbs, calories, and sugar, but it’s also rich in disease-fighting antioxidant compounds, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids.
5. Unsweetened coffee
Drinking coffee might help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by improving sugar metabolism, according to a 2019 review of studiesTrusted Source.
As with tea, it’s important that your coffee remain unsweetened. Adding milk, cream, or sugar to your coffee increases the overall calorie count and may affect your blood sugar levels.
Many no- or low-calorie sweeteners are available if you choose to use them.
6. Vegetable juice
While most 100 percent fruit juice is 100 percent sugar, you can try tomato juice or a vegetable juice alternative.
Make your own blend of green leafy vegetables, celery, or cucumbers with a handful of berries for a flavorful supply of vitamins and minerals. Remember to count the berries as part of your carbohydrate total for the day.
7. Low fat milk
Milk contains important vitamins and minerals, but it does add carbohydrates to your diet. Always choose unsweetened, low fat, or skim versions of your preferred milk and stick to no more than two to three 8-ounce glasses a day.
8. Milk alternatives
Milk alternatives like almond, oat, rice, soy, rice, or coconut milk are dairy-free and low in carbs.
They are also sometimes fortified with important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, both of which play a key role in bone health.
Be aware that soy and rice milk contain carbohydrates, and many nut milks contain a minimal amount of protein, so check the packaging carefully to pick the right product for you.
9. Green smoothie
Green smoothies can be an excellent way to squeeze some extra fiber and nutrients into your diet while staying hydrated.
Try making your own using green vegetables like spinach, kale, or celery and pair with some protein powder and a bit of fruit for a healthy, homemade smoothie.
Keep in mind that fruits contain carbohydrates, so remember to count them toward your daily carb intake.
Beverage Dos and Don’ts for Diabetes
Stay refreshed with healthy drink choices while skipping drinks that cause blood sugar levels to spike.
Condition Kitchen: Type 2 Diabetes-Berry Cocktail
For people living with Type 2 Diabetes, it may be hard to celebrate and have that drink! Dr. Joe and Chef Daniel have a low-sugar recipe for for a cocktail with vodka and fresh raspberries that won’t spike your blood sugar.
When it comes to successfully managing type 2 diabetes, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. In fact, you may be surprised by how much a single drink can affect your blood sugar.
Drinks with carbohydrates (read: sugar) will affect your blood sugar more readily than zero-carb, zero-sugar drinks like water. “Anything that’s liquid that has carbohydrates will digest faster than something you would have to chew,” says Lori Zanini, RD, CDCES, who’s based in Los Angeles. The result: a quick spike in blood sugar.
If you have type 2 diabetes, this means taking sugary drinks — such as regular soda, sweet tea, and even juice — off the table and replacing them with low-sugar and sugar-free options, including water.
If you enjoy swigging bottled drinks, you may be at a loss for how to stay hydrated. Fortunately, there’s a variety of refreshing, flavorful beverages you can enjoy, says Katherine Basbaum, RD, a clinical dietitian in the cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation departments at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville.
Before you take your next sip, here are the top drinking dos and don’ts for people with diabetes.
1. Drink Plain Water, Which Has a Neutral Effect on Blood Sugar
Water is one of the few beverages you can drink without worry throughout the day. “Water is neutral,” Zanini says. This means that water neither raises nor lowers your blood sugar.
Drinking water is also a great way to stay hydrated, and staying hydrated will help you regulate your blood sugar. “Water helps dilute your blood, which lowers your blood sugar levels,” Zanini explains.
In terms of daily intake, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends drinking ½ ounce (oz) to 1 oz of fluid, such as water, for each pound of body weight. Keep an eye on your hydration by checking that the color of your urine is light yellow, Zanini says.
If you often forget to drink as much water as you should, Basbaum has a suggestion for increasing your intake: Drink one 8 oz glass of water for every other beverage you drink that contains sugar substitutes or caffeine. Shake things up with sparkling water or by squeezing lemon or lime juice into your glass.
2. Drink Cow’s Milk, Which Also Provides Protein and Calcium
“Skim or low-fat milk is also a good beverage option, but it must be counted toward your carb total for a particular meal or snack,” Basbaum says.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a cup of 1 percent milk (low-fat milk) also provides 305 milligrams (mg) of calcium, which accounts for about 23 percent of the daily value.
Be aware that nondairy milk options, such as almond milk, may have added sweeteners and flavorings. They also often lack the blood-sugar-stabilizing protein of cow’s milk.
3. Don’t Drink Sugar-Sweetened Sodas or Teas
Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and sweetened bottled tea wreaks havoc on your body in a variety of ways.
For example, a study published in December 2016 in The Journal of Nutrition found that middle-aged adults who drank more than three sugar-sweetened beverages per week had a 46 percent higher risk of developing prediabetes than people who didn’t drink sugary beverages. Similarly, an earlier study revealed that people who consumed just two sugar-sweetened soda or juice beverages per week had an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, particularly if they’d gained more than 6 pounds over a five-year period.
“Sugar-sweetened drinks are absorbed into your bloodstream much too quickly, causing a spike in blood glucose levels,” explains Basbaum. Furthermore, these drinks will affect your carb intake. A typical 12 oz can of soda contains about 39 g of carbs, according to the USDA. Meanwhile, 12 oz of fruit punch contains roughly the same amount of carbs as a can of cola.
Get in the habit of carrying a bottle of water with you in case you get caught somewhere with no sugar-free drink options available.
4. Drink Artificially Sweetened Drinks — Maybe
Drinks with artificial sweeteners, such as diet sodas, remain a controversial topic.
On the one hand, drinks with artificial sweeteners can be a calorie-reducing alternative to sweetened drinks. “I do endorse artificially sweetened beverages for the purpose of controlling blood sugar and weight,” Basbaum says.
Because artificially sweetened drinks have zero carbohydrates and low calorie counts, they may be a good alternative to soda and juice sweetened with traditional sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Yet artificial sweeteners can be several hundred to several thousand times more intense than natural sugar, research has shown. Plus, in Zanini’s experience, they cause people to crave sweets more.
Some studies support this notion. An article published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism notes that eating artificial sweeteners may cause brain changes that trigger overeating. The article also references research that may link consumption of these sugar alternatives to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Ultimately, more studies are needed, the authors concluded.
Whether you decide to drink artificially sweetened beverages (and how much) is a matter of taste and preference, and a choice to make with your healthcare team.
5. Drink Tomato Juice Instead of Sugary Fruit Juice
If you enjoy drinking juice — or you’re tired of drinking water all the time — avoid sugary fruit options and instead opt for a small portion of vegetable juice, like tomato juice, Zanini says. And as long as you stick to 100 percent tomato juice with no added salt or sugar, it might provide you with some good overall health benefits.
For instance, drinking 1½ cups of tomato juice a day for a month cut down on some measures of inflammation in obese women, according to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Tomato juice has about 10 grams (g) of carbs per cup, so you’ll need to factor that in.
As always, it’s better to eat whole fruits and vegetables than drink them, Zanini says. Eating one whole tomato per day may help reduce blood pressure and, by extension, the cardiovascular risk associated with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
6. Drink Unsweetened Coffee and Tea — in Small Amounts
Feel free to drink tea and coffee hot or iced in moderation. “Try them either unsweetened or prepared with a sugar substitute,” Basbaum says. Your best bet is to stick to unsweetened coffee or tea, but if you have to add something, look for low-calorie sweeteners. Keep in mind that any milk, cream, or creamer you add to your drink must be counted as part of the carbohydrates in your diet. If you enjoy syrup flavors in coffee drinks, look for sugar-free variations.
Rather than adding sugar, tea can be flavored with lemon juice. But if you need some sugar, Zanini recommends going for Stevia instead of artificial sweeteners as a more natural option.
Research suggests that coffee and tea — green tea in particular — may lower type 2 diabetes risk. One study found that people who consumed at least 6 cups of green tea or 3 cups of coffee per day were 33 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who consumed less than 1 cup of either beverage per week.
7. Don’t Drink Sports Drinks — Unless You’re an Endurance Athlete
Exercise is great for managing type 2 diabetes, but skip sports drinks, which are high in carbohydrates. One 8 oz serving of Powerade, for example, packs about 19 g of carbs, notes the USDA, and that’s not even the whole bottle.
Dietitians only recommend sports drinks for endurance athletes, who may exercise strenuously enough to need salt and nutrient replacement. “Sports drinks are usually not necessary unless someone has been very active for over an hour,” Zanini says.
Water is sufficient to keep you hydrated for moderate exercise. You can also plan on a healthy postworkout snack that provides you with some carbs and protein, such as an apple with a bit of peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg and an orange. These options will give you the protein and carbs you need to kick-start your exercise recovery without spiking your blood sugar.
8. Drink 100 Percent Fruit Juices — Occasionally and in Moderation
You can have the occasional 4 to 6 oz glass of 100 percent fruit juice as a treat, Basbaum says. Remember to count the carbs as part of your overall meal, and plan for the blood sugar spike the juice might cause.
For example, if you like to have breakfast with fresh-squeezed orange juice, which has 26 g carbs per cup, per the USDA, calculate its nutrient makeup along with your eggs and whole-grain toast for a complete picture of the meal.