Best Beverages for People with Diabetes by The Diabetes FoodHub Team

Coffee, tea, soda, juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, sparkling water—there are so many choices out there when it comes to picking your drink! So what’s the best choice for a person with diabetes? Just like everyone else, the best choice for staying hydrated is always WATER!

Best Beverages for People with Diabetes Hydration is an important part of staying healthy. More than half of our body weight comes from water—it’s found in all our cells, organs, and tissues, and our bodies can’t work without it. We lose water throughout the day through digestion, sweating, and even breathing. It’s important to replace water that is lost by drinking plenty of fluids, but with so many beverage options available, you might find yourself asking: What can I drink?

The best and easiest way for anyone to stay hydrated is to drink plain water! It is exactly what our bodies need, and doesn’t have any added sugar, calories, or sweeteners. It’s also easy to find and usually free!

Think outside the bottle

If you’re feeling a little bored with plain water, try some of these sugar- and calorie-free options:
  1. Infused water: Adding a few pieces of fresh fruit and/or herbs to your water can give it a hint of flavor without adding any sugar or calories. Get creative with fruit and herb combinations like blackberry and mint, watermelon and basil, or lavender and lemon. Or try something with a little kick like apples and cinnamon, peaches and ginger, or strawberry and jalapeno. (Most of the time adding fruit to water will not add any sugar or calories, unless you mash the fruit or eat the fruit after it has infused.)
  3. Sparkling water: Sparkling water is a great change from sugary sodas when you are craving something bubbly. If plain sparkling water isn’t your cup of tea, you can infuse it just like plain water, or try any of the new flavored sparkling water options available in stores. Look for brands and flavors that have no added sugar or sweeteners, like La Croix.
  5. Tea: If you think about it, tea is basically just infused water! Leave out the sugar, and tea is another great zero-calorie drink choice that can be enjoyed hot or cold. If you are sensitive to caffeine, look for decaf versions of black and green tea, or try a caffeine-free herbal tea like chamomile, rooibos, or peppermint. If you drink bottled tea, check the ingredients and look for options that have no added sugar or sweeteners. 
  7. Coffee: Just like tea, plain black coffee has no calories or sugar. However, flavored coffees like lattes and many bottled coffees have lots of added milk and sugar. This can lead to a drink surprisingly high in calories and carbohydrates. Check the nutrition facts label on bottled coffee, and opt for plain coffee without any milk or sugar at the coffee shop. 

Drink These in Moderation

Some beverages like milk and fruit juice can also be part of a healthy diet, but should be consumed in moderation.

Fruit juice: Whole fruit is best for getting more servings of fruit because it has fiber that helps you feel fuller, aids in digestion, and helps manage blood sugar. While 100% fruit juice does contain many of the vitamins and minerals found in whole fruit, it also contains a lot of sugar, which can cause your blood sugar to spike*. If you do choose fruit juice, make sure it is 100% fruit juice with no added sugar, and stick to small portions—1/2 cup or 4 ounces (usually the size of a kid’s juice box) is the recommended serving size.
  2. *While fruit juice isn’t a great choice for hydration, it can be helpful for treating low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) since it can quickly raise blood sugar. 
  4. Milk: Milk is a great source of nutrients like protein, calcium, and vitamin D, which are important to promote bone strength. But milk also contains calories, carbohydrates, and sometimes saturated fat. Choose low- or nonfat milk without added flavor or sugar. If you prefer non-dairy milks, like soy or almond, look for unsweetened varieties. The recommended serving size for milk is 8 ounces—this contains 12 grams of carb, about 100 calories, and about a third of the calcium you need in a day. 

Avoid these

Any drinks with added sugar like sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, and sweetened tea and coffee are best avoided. The liquid sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar, and the added calories can contribute to weight gain. 
Diet drinks are a better choice than sugary drinks like soda, but should still be consumed in moderation

Diet drinks made with artificial sweeteners are more debatable—they do not contain sugar and can help with blood sugar and weight management ifthey are replacing sugary drinks in your diet. But ongoing research has found that diet drinks may have other harmful health effects, and may actually add to weight gain. Read more about artificial sweeteners here.

Alcoholic drinks can be enjoyed now and then, but there are many things to keep in mind if you have diabetes. Read more here.

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