Sipping and Swigging Low-Carb Beverages

By Sherri Shafer

If you’re looking for flavor, lots of low-carb options provide a little pizzazz and still don’t drive the blood-glucose levels up. If you want a soda, you’re better off with a diet version than a regular sugary soft drink. If you aren’t looking for fizz, try drink mixes in powdered or liquid form that can be mixed up in a minute:

  • Lemonade: Lemons and limes have very little carbohydrate. Make homemade lemonade by mixing freshly squeezed lemon juice with water and sweeten to taste with your choice of noncaloric sugar substitutes. Start with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to 8–12 ounces of water, or make it by the pitcher with 1/2 cup of lemon juice per quart of water, and sweeten according to taste.

Try freezing a more concentrated version of your lemonade in ice-cube trays to add flavor to your water anytime.

  • Tea: Whether you like herbal, green, or black, caffeinated or caffeine-free, there are countless options. Steep it and drink it hot or chill it for a tall glass of iced tea. Try mixing half a glass of iced tea with half a glass of the lemonade you made in the preceding entry.
  • Diet drinks: Most sugar-sweetened soda brands offer a diet version. Diet is the way to go when you’re watching your blood-glucose levels. (Regular soft drinks wreak havoc.) Nobody benefits from getting hundreds of empty calories from beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Diet sodas shouldn’t displace nutrient-rich milk or other calcium-fortified milk replacements, but a diet soda here and there isn’t going to hurt.
  • Sugar-free drink mixes: Check your supermarket shelves for sugar-free drink mixes that you can mix up by the glass or by the pitcher. They come in powdered form or in liquid drops. Look for resealable, multi-serve containers as well as boxes with single-serve packets. Or, buy sugar-free beverages bottled and ready to drink.

When dining out, carry single-serve, sugar-free powdered drink mixes to stir into your glass of water. Stir up a serving of no-sugar-added lemonade or a fruit-flavored beverage. You win in two ways: You get a noncaloric diet drink that doesn’t raise your blood sugar, and you save money. You can also carry the brands that come in liquid concentrate and plop a few drops into your ice water.

  • Coffee: Don’t worry. Plain, brewed coffee doesn’t affect your blood sugar, whether it is caffeinated or not. It boils down to what you put in it. A packet of your choice of sugar substitute doesn’t add carbohydrate. A splash of milk or half and half doesn’t add up to very much carb (unless you drink cup after cup). So just check the labels on what you’re stirring into your coffee. The latte or café con leche carb count depends on the amount of milk you use, whether it’s the moo kind or the soy variety.