Working out what to eat and drink when you have diabetes can be difficult and confusing. Water is the obvious example, but let’s be honest, most of us get bored of plain water before too long. Thankfully, there are plenty of other drinks for diabetes too, including ones that are delicious and easy to find.
It's easy to see why food and drink is so important. What we choose to eat and drink impacts many aspects of our health. Food is more than that too. It also has a social component, can change your mood, and is enjoyable.
Let’s face it. We love food. That’s why everyone looks for foods and drinks that aren’t just healthy, but also taste fantastic.
Food influences your blood sugar levels too. Diabetics have too much glucose in their blood, which causes a host of health problems.
Choosing food and drink is one of the most important aspects of managing diabetes. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to cut out all of your favorites. There are many delicious options for diabetics. You can even try a diabetes friendly meal kit, which will deliver all the ingredients you need straight to your door.
Table of Contents
What You Can Drink When You Have Diabetes
- Sparkling Water
- Flavored Sparkling Water
- Vegetable Juice
- Diet Drinks
- Water With A Splash Of Juice
- Protein Shakes And Smoothies
- Plant-Based Milk
- Low Carb Alcohol
- Sugar Free Chocolate Milk
Sparkling water is the easiest and safest option if you’re bored with plain water. The carbonation from the bubbles gives you an interesting drink – and there’s no extra sugar to worry about.
There are a few different types of sparkling water out there, including seltzer, club soda, soda water, and sparkling mineral water. They’re all very similar.
The main difference is in their mineral content, as soda water has some minerals added into it, while mineral water contains a variety of naturally occurring minerals. The health effects are much the same regardless of the type you choose.
Just watch out for tonic water. While this might sound like a healthy option, it isn’t at all. Most tonic water products are similar to regular soda and contain just as much sugar.
Flavored Sparkling Water
You can also find flavored sparkling water. The best products avoid sugar and artificial ingredients.
Perhaps the most famous is LaCroix. This flavored sparkling water is completely sugar free because the company uses natural essences for flavor, rather than juice or ‘natural flavors’.
Spindrift is another option. This brand has a natural focus too, but the products include fruit juice and fruit puree, rather than essences. Don’t worry though, the sugar content is minimal. You only get around 1 gram of sugar in a 12 fl. oz serving.
There are many other types of flavored sparkling water out there too. However, it’s important to choose your products carefully, as many companies pack in the sugar or use additives.
We can’t forget about regular water either. Sure, it can be a little boring, but water is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself hydrated.
Besides, there are plenty of ways to make water more interesting.
The simplest approach is to squeeze in a little lemon or lime juice. Both types of juice provide a burst of flavor without adding many calories in at all.
You can also make infused water. This involves adding fresh fruit, vegetables and/or herbs to your water and allowing it to sit for a while. There are endless combinations of ingredients, ranging from very simple to complex.
Infused water is a fun trick, as the ingredients provide a surprising amount of flavor, but you’re not getting many calories from them.
We can’t go past coffee. It’s an incredibly popular drink, one that many of us rely on for an energy boost.
Thankfully, being diabetic doesn’t need to affect your coffee habit at all. You can still drink coffee regularly, including caffeinated and decaffeinated versions.
Unsweetened coffee is the best choice, as this is very low in calories and won’t affect your blood sugar much at all. Additions like sugar, milk, or cream all increase the calorie content of your drink.
Tea is another classic drink and it’s an easy choice for diabetics.
No surprises here, right? After all, tea is just leaves that have been steeped in hot water, so it’s naturally low in calories.
Tea has also been linked to a variety of health benefits, including helping with your heart health.
You can choose any type of tea, including black, green, and white tea, along with all the varieties of herbal tea. But, be careful with tea blends, as many of these contain added sugar.
Iced tea can be an excellent choice too, as long as you’re cautious with sweeteners. It’s often best to skip the sugar altogether and add a little of a natural sweetener like stevia.
While fruit juice is made up of sugar and little else, vegetable juice can be a much healthier choice, one that’s dramatically lower in sugar. It’s often packed with nutrients from the vegetables, including plenty of antioxidants.
It’s always best to make vegetable juice yourself, rather than buying it. While there are plenty of vegetable juice brands out there, like V8, many of them rely on artificial ingredients to stabilize them and improve their flavor.
Then there’s the sugar content. Commercial vegetable juices often use far too much sugar.
Making vegetable juice yourself gives you the chance to control all the ingredients, along with the final flavor. And, because your juice is fresh, it should be much healthier than anything you find in a store.
Anything marketed as diet or sugar free may be a good choice when you have diabetes. These products typically avoid sugar entirely and use either natural or artificial sweeteners instead.
Those alternative sweeteners are often sweeter than sugar and don’t spike your blood sugar in the same way.
However, diet drinks should be approached with caution, particularly those that use artificial sweeteners. While the sweeteners have been studied and are viewed as safe, not everyone agrees. There are plenty of debates about whether the sweeteners cause more harm than good.
Calorie-free sweeteners could also mess with your internal rewards system, leaving you stuck with sugar cravings. However, this is an area you’ll need to experiment with for yourself, as research isn’t conclusive at all.
In fact, some people find diet drinks useful as a way to cut down on sugar, while others prefer to focus on drinks that don’t include any sweeteners at all, like sparkling water.
Water With A Splash Of Juice
Adding a splash of juice to water is an easy way to make it taste good, without adding too many calories. We’re not just talking about lemon juice or lime juice here either. You can add sweet fruit juice too, like orange juice or cranberry juice.
The trick is to watch the ratio of juice to water. A drink that’s half juice and half water might be too sugary for many diabetics, while one that has a 5:1 ratio of water to juice could work well.
You can also find commercial products that take this approach, like V8 Splash. Just be sure to carefully check the ingredients label to make sure that there isn’t too much sugar.
Protein Shakes And Smoothies
Some protein shakes can work well with diabetes as well. The best options are ones that are relatively high in fat and protein, but keep the sugar content low.
Brands like Boost and Ensure offer products designed specifically for diabetics, although these are often highly processed and rely on additives. There are plenty of other low sugar shakes and smoothies as well.
Another option is to make your own versions. This way you have complete control over the ingredients, allowing you to choose the nutrient balance and final flavor.
Keto smoothies are a fantastic place to start here, as these tend to be low in sugar anyway. There are countless types to try, like almond milk smoothies, which tend to be dairy free and vegan friendly.
Milk may be somewhat controversial these days, but it still offers many benefits. Where else do you find such a good balance of nutrients and protein?
Most experts suggest sticking to low fat milk, as keeping the fat content low helps to decrease the risk of obesity and any additional health problems.
However, there’s plenty of debate about whether full fat dairy is as bad as we think. Because the different types of milk all contain roughly the same amount of carbs, you can choose whatever type you like.
Plant-based milk isn’t really milk at all. Instead, the drink is designed to look and taste as much like milk as possible. Some versions even rely on additives to create a similar nutritional profile.
Plant-based milk is ideal if you are avoiding dairy for any reason. However, none of the products taste exactly like the real thing and they all have their individual quirks.
While these milks are an excellent alternative to dairy, you’ll need to choose carefully as a diabetic. Options like oat milk, quinoa milk, and rice milk, for example, all contain a decent number of carbs.
Check the ingredients labels too, as some companies use additives and a surprising amount of sugar. Sugar free versions will be your best bet, as sugar really isn’t needed in plant-based milk anyway.
Low Carb Alcohol
Experts recommend steering clear of alcohol when you have diabetes. Alcohol doesn’t provide many benefits anyway and it has additional problems for diabetes, as it can interact with your medication, cause sudden blood sugar changes, and promote overeating.
Still, you don’t need to give up your alcohol entirely.
Many diabetics still enjoy alcohol semi-regularly. The trick is to be aware of your portions and focus on low carb alcohol. Any type of spirit will work well, especially if you use a sugar free mixer or have it on the rocks.
You can also try a glass of dry red wine or white wine. Even sparkling wine is okay, provided that it’s dry rather than sweet.
Low carb beer is an option too. Many light beers are perfect. Or, you can take things one step further and look for a product that’s marketed as being low carb.
Sugar Free Chocolate Milk
Regular chocolate milk is too sweet for most diabetics. Why not make your own diabetes-friendly version instead? An easy way to do this is by combining milk, cocoa powder, and a sweetener like stevia.
Dairy milk works well for this type of recipe, but you could use a low carb plant-based milk instead if you prefer.