Finding the best drinks for diabetes can be stressful, keep reading to learn more about diabetes-friendly packaged drinks (you know, other than water)!
Have you ever spent too much time in the grocery store trying to decide on the best drinks for diabetes? We’re breaking down diabetes-friendly options for milk, juice, energy drinks, electrolyte drinks, beer, wine, and more!
Tips for picking low sugar drinks
Choosing diabetes-friendly low sugar drinks can be difficult without direction. Here are some tips for choosing the best drinks for diabetes:
- Always check the nutrition label, ingredients, and compare options
- Pay attention to the added sugar on the nutrition label
- Companies will swap added sugars for artificial and non-nutritive sweeteners to reduce the overall sugar content and use terms such as “low sugar” or “sugar-free”
How much water should a person with diabetes drink?
Staying properly hydrated is crucial for blood sugar regulation as your body eliminates excess glucose through urine. The Institute of Medicine recommends men drink 13 cups and women drink 9 cups of water per day.
While we’ve got some great options for you to check out, it’s important to remember than none of these should be replacing your water intake.
But, with that said, we also know sometimes you just want something other than water!
What can people with diabetes drink besides water?
Choosing the right beverages can make a major difference in managing blood sugar. While consuming lightly sweetened beverages in moderation is okay, unsweetened options are usually a better choice for people living with diabetes.
- Unsweetened tea
- Homemade lemonade
Unsweetened tea: Besides tea’s numerous health benefits, it can be beneficial for people living with diabetes. Unsweetened tea is a sugar-free drink option that has antioxidant properties and can help keep your body hydrated. Unsweetened green tea, black tea, and herbal tea are all diabetes-friendly options!
Milk: Milk in moderation can be a great choice for people living with diabetes. It contains a blood sugar balancing combination of fat, carbohydrate, and protein, and is considered a low glycemic food.
Homemade lemonade: Squeeze a wedge of lemon in your water and enjoy some fresh lemonade! Add some mint if you’re feeling up for it!
Unsweetened Coffee: Add a splash of milk or cinnamon for a blood-sugar friendly option. Generally speaking, I recommend drinking coffee over energy drinks for a caffeine boost. Or, tea if you’re not up for coffee.
Sugar free drinks options
And, what about flavored waters or teas? As we’ve said above, try to choose options without added sugar.
List of drinks without sugar
- Sparkling Water
- Unsweetened Tea
Water: Add lemon, lime, frozen berries, or fragrant herbs for extra flavor.
Sparking Water: Try sparkling water to change things up a bit. Brands such as LaCroix, Waterloo, and Bubbly are readily available at your local grocery store.
Juice for diabetes
It is important to know that liquids with high sugar content, such as fruit juice, affect blood sugar levels more quickly than whole fruit. Unlike whole fruits, there is minimal amounts of fiber in fruit juice. This means that fruit juice does not offer the benefits of fiber like whole fruit does. Fiber slows down digestion and the absorption of sugar in your bloodstream. The ADA recommends no more than 4 ounces of fruit juice per day of 100% fruit juice.
Alternatively, fruit juice can be a great option for treating low blood sugar quickly. To treat low blood sugar, drink 4 ounces of fruit juice, wait 15 minutes, and check your blood sugar again.
Best juice for diabetes for low blood sugars
- Orange juice
- Apple juice
- Grape juice
Orange juice: Orange juice can be used to treat low blood sugar for people living with diabetes. Choose a brand that contains 100% fruit juice. OJ in moderation can also be a part of blood sugar friendly meal if paired with fat, fiber, and protein.
Apple juice: Apple juice has a little more sugar and carbohydrates compared to orange juice, which makes it a slightly better option to treat low blood sugar compared to orange juice. Again, choose a brand that contains 100% fruit juice, and if you’d like to enjoy apple juice when you’re not having a low blood sugar, make sure to enjoy it as part of a meal with fat, fiber, and protein.
Grape juice: Grape juice will typically have the highest amount of carbohydrates and sugar compared to orange and apple juice, and thus can be a good choice for treating low blood sugars.
Milk for diabetes
Milk can be an excellent choice for a diabetes-friendly beverage. It contains protein and fat, a great combination for stabilizing blood sugar. However, cow’s milk contains carbohydrates, so it should be factored into daily carbohydrate counting. And, whether you choose whole, low-fat, or skim milk, all have 12 g carbohydrate in an 8floz glass.
Best milk for diabetes
- Whole milk
- Low-fat milk
- Skim milk
Whole milk: Whole milk (3.25% milk fat) can be a great choice for a snack as it contains protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Although whole milk has the highest fat content out of the three types of milk, it also has the highest omega-3 fatty acids content, which are beneficial for brain and heart health.
Low-fat milk: Low fat milk contains 1% milk fat.
Skim milk: Skim milk contains less than 0.5 % milk fat.
And, for a dairy beverage with probiotics, plain kefir or lightly sweetened kefir is an excellent protein-rich choice.
Is almond milk good for people with diabetes?
Unsweetened almond milk can be a great plant-based milk option for people living with diabetes. However, several different varieties of almond milk are flavored and sweetened. If you choose to drink almond milk (or any other plant based milk), choose an option with no added sugar, typically labeled as “unsweetened.” Most plant based milks labeled as “Original” or “plain” are actually sweetened.
Electrolyte drinks for diabetes
When you sweat, you lose fluids and important electrolytes that help your body function properly. It’s important to replace these electrolytes and fluids with a low or no sugar option to prevent blood sugar spikes.
Electrolyte drinks without sugar
- Gatorade Zero
- Powerade Zero
Gatorade Zero: Containing zero sugar, and potassium and sodium as electrolytes, Gatorade Zero is a good option for an electrolyte drink without added sugar. They now come in a powder you can buy and just add to your water bottle too.
Powerade Zero: Similar to Gatorade Zero, Powerade Zero contains important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium without added sugar.
Low sugar electrolyte drinks
- Propel Water
Propel water: Propel Water offers a variety of low and no sugar electrolyte drinks plus Vitamin B, C, and E. They also make a powder version for travel and convenience.
Energy Drinks for diabetes
There are tons of different brands of energy drinks on the market these days. Pay attention to the nutrition label for added sugar and quality ingredients. I recommend speaking with your doctor or dietitian before consuming energy drinks.
Top energy drinks for diabetes
- Proper Wild
- Sound Organic Sparking Tea
- La Colombe Double Shot Draft Latte
Proper Wild: This energy drink is 100 % plant based and does not contain artificial sweeteners. 1 energy shot (2.5 oz.) contains 5g sugar, 6g total carbohydrate, and 180mg of caffeine.
Sound Organic Sparkling Tea: This unique energy drink contains green and black tea with botanicals without added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Depending on the flavor, caffeine ranges from 0-70 mg per bottle.
La Colombe Double Shot Draft Latte: With 120mg of naturally occurring caffeine and only 3g added sugar, this latte-in-a-can type product is a great energy pick me up for people with diabetes. And, because it’s made with milk, each can also has 5g protein.
Tips for drinking alcohol and picking out the best drinks for diabetes
Follow these general tips when considering alcohol if you have diabetes…
- Check with your doctor to make sure consuming alcohol is safe for you
- Always consume alcohol in moderation
- It’s best to eat before you start drinking
- Avoid sweet, dessert wines, and heavy beers
- Dry champagne has the lowest carbohydrate content compared to other wines and beers
- Stay hydrated (with water!)
Always be safe, and make sure to read additional important information on consuming alcohol when you have diabetes.
Best beer for diabetes
Light beers, or low carbohydrate beers are the most diabetes friendly beer options. Light beers have substantially less calories and carbohydrate than regular beers. The following are options for light beers with low carbohydrate counts:
- Miller Lite
- Miller 64
- Busch Light
- Michelob Ultra
Miller Lite: Miller Lite is a popular, low carb beer containing 3.2 g carbs and 0 g of sugar per 12 ounces. Ingredients include water, barley malt, corn syrup (dextrose), yeast, and hops.
Miller 64: Containing only 2.8g carbs and 0 g of sugar per 12 ounces, Miller 64 has one of the lowest carb options for beers. Ingredients include water, barley malt, corn syrup (dextrose), yeast, and hops.
Busch Light: Busch Light Beer contains 3.2 g carbs and 0 g of sugar per 12 ounces. Ingredients include water, barley, rice, and hops.
Michelob ULTRA: Michelob ULTRA contains only 2.6 g carbs and 0 g of sugar per 12 ounces. Ingredients include barley, rice, hops, and water.
Low sugar wines for diabetes
Dry red and white wine will have lower carb counts and sugar content compared to sweet, dessert wines. These drier wines provide about 3-4g carbohydrate and 1g sugar per standard 5 oz glass.
- Pinot Noir
- Brut Champagne
Chardonnay: On average, chardonnay has roughly 2.16 g of carbs. FitVine Wine also makes a Chardonnay that has 0.04 g of sugar. Dry Farm Wines sources wine that contains less than 1 g of sugar per liter. They make their wine with lower sulfates and alcohol content compared to most store-bought wines.
Dry brut: Brut is a dry (least sweet) champagne. Many brands have less than 2 g of carbs. Brut champagne may be your best option for a low sugar and low carb beverage.