Drinks: Water is not the only drink.
Food often takes center stage when it comes to diabetes. But don’t forget that the beverages you drink can also have an effect on your weight and blood glucose!
We recommend choosing zero-calorie or very low-calorie drinks. This includes:
- Unsweetened teas
- Diet soda
- Other low-calorie drinks and drink mixes
You can also try flavoring your water with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice for a light, refreshing drink with some flavor. All of these drinks provide minimal calories and carbohydrates.
What to Avoid
Avoid sugary drinks like regular soda, fruit punch, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sweet tea, and other sugary drinks. These will raise blood glucose and can provide several hundred calories in just one serving! See for yourself:
- One 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 150 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrate. This is the same amount of carbohydrate in 10 teaspoons of sugar!
- One cup of fruit punch and other sugary fruit drinks have about 100 calories (or more) and 30 grams of carbohydrate.
Low sugar drinks
Most diet drinks (like diet soda or diet tea) have zero grams of carbohydrate per serving, so they will not raise blood glucose on their own. These diet drinks are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of added sugars. Removing the added sugars and replacing them with artificial sweeteners removes most of the calories and carbohydrates.
One good thing about low-calorie drinks and drink mixes is that they are available in several flavors. They may be a good alternative to regular lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch, etc. These drink mixes are also usually sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners. They are very low in calories (about 5-10 per 8-ounce portion) and have less than 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving.
Milk and Juice
Low-fat milk and 100% juice with no sugar added are also healthy drink choices. These drinks provide more calories and carbohydrates than the other recommended choices, but they also provide us with important vitamins and minerals. Just remember to control portion size when you drink them, because the calories and carbohydrates can add up when you have too much.
Choose low-fat 1% or skim milk, and make sure that you count it in your meal plan. One cup of skim milk provides about 12 grams of carbohydrate and 80 calories.
If you choose to drink juice, be sure the label says it is 100% juice with no sugar added. Juice provides a lot of carbohydrates in a small portion, so be sure to count it in your meal plan. Usually 4-6 ounces (not even a full cup!) contains 15 grams of carbohydrate and 50 or more calories.
If you like to have juice in the morning but don’t want the carbohydrate from fruit juice, try low-sodium vegetable juice. At just 50 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate in 1 cup, it is a great alternative.
Most people with diabetes are aware of how different foods affect their blood glucose, but aren’t sure if alcohol is safe for diabetics.
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol moves quickly into the bloodstream without being metabolized in your stomach. Within five minutes of having a drink, there’s enough alcohol in your bloodstream to measure. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, and for the average person it takes approximately two hours to metabolize one drink. If you drink alcohol faster than your body metabolizes it, the excess alcohol moves through your bloodstream to other parts of your body, particularly your brain. If you’ve ever gotten a “buzz” when drinking alcohol, that’s why.
If you’re on insulin, or certain oral diabetes medications, such as a sulfonylurea (glipizide, glyburide) or meglitinide (Prandin) that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, drinking alcohol can cause lead to dangerously low blood sugar because your liver has to work to remove the alcohol from your blood instead of its main job to regulate your blood sugar.
Safe drinking guidelines
- Consult your physician and follow his/her advice — alcohol can worsen diabetes complications.
- Monitor your blood sugar before, during, and after drinking alcohol. Remember to check before going to bed.
- Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach — food slows down the absorption of alcohol into the blood stream.
- Avoid binge drinking — The American Diabetes Association suggests men have no more than two drinks a day, and women one, the same guidelines as for those without diabetes.
- Be prepared — Always carry along glucose tablets or another source of sugar. Glucagon shots will not work in this case.
- Don’t mix alcohol and exercise — physical activity and alcohol will increase your chances of developing a low blood sugar level.
The symptoms of too much alcohol and low blood sugar can be very similar, i.e. sleepiness, dizziness, and disorientation. You don’t want others to mistakenly confuse hypoglycemia for drunkenness.