What Can Diabetics Drink?
Just as some foods are better for you than others when you have diabetes, some drinks are better for you than others. The drinks you choose can either support or hinder your healthy food choices.
Don’t forget the nutrients in your drinks! Liquid calories and carbohydrates still count and can affect your blood glucose and weight. Choose the best drink options to keep your healthy eating on track.
Steering clear of sugary beverages
Drinks that are sweetened with sugar such as regular sodas, fruit drinks and juices, energy drinks, and sweet teas will increase your blood glucose faster than most foods and can make it much harder to get to your blood glucose goals. If you love regular sodas, you’re not alone; reducing soda intake is a goal for many people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But it’s important to choose zero- or very low-calorie drinks instead of regular sodas. Each serving of regular soda contains a large amount of carbohydrates, which raises your blood glucose, and can contribute more than 100 calories to your diet. These numbers add up! Just a few servings of high-calorie, high-carbohydrate drinks per day can sabotage an otherwise healthy diet. If you enjoy the taste and fizz in sodas, try switching to diet sodas or sparkling water. It makes a big difference. Most diet drinks contain zero grams of carbohydrate because they’re sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners, so they won’t raise your blood glucose.
Many people think that fruit drinks and juices are healthy drink choices, but they can contain a lot of carbohydrate and calories as well. If you want to drink a glass of fruit juice now and then, watch your portion size. Or, if you’re craving fruit juice, try a glass of water flavored with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice instead. You may also be able to curb your craving with a fresh piece of fruit. Fruits still contain calories and carbohydrates, but whole fruits have fiber that fruit juices don’t provide. Your best bet is to chew your fruit instead of drinking it.
Choosing the best drinks
When it comes to drinks, try to stick to zero-calorie or very low-calorie drinks, including the following:
- Unsweetened tea (black, green, herbal)
- Black coffee
- Diet soda
- Other low-calorie drinks/drink mixes (look for options with less than 10 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving)
Is alcohol off limits?
You may be surprised to read that alcohol is not off limits for people with diabetes. But moderation is key when drinking alcoholic beverages. Women should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two drinks per day. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1-1/2 ounces of distilled spirits.
Enjoy alcohol safely, especially when you have diabetes. A few easy tips and tricks can help you stay safe:
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach or replace foods in your regular meal plan with alcohol. Alcohol can lower your blood glucose level, and drinking on an empty stomach may cause you to become intoxicated more quickly. So, it’s a good idea to have food with your alcoholic drink.
- When you’re drinking a mixed drink, choose calorie-free mixers like diet sodas or diet tonic water to avoid extra calories and carbohydrates that will make it harder to manage your blood glucose.
- Alcohol can lower your blood glucose level (sometime to a dangerously low level), and the symptoms of low blood glucose are very similar to and may be mistaken for the effects of alcohol. For example, both low blood glucose and intoxication can cause dizziness and confusion, hunger and nausea, fatigue and sleepiness, irritability, and other symptoms; this can make it difficult to realize if a person who has been drinking is experiencing low blood glucose. It’s important for people with diabetes, especially those who use insulin, to know the symptoms of low blood glucose before leaving home and have a plan to treat lows (this should be discussed this with a healthcare provider). It’s also a good idea to wear medical/diabetes identification when drinking.
- Never drink and drive!