Practical List of What Can a Diabetic Drink Besides Water

Unsweetened tea, milk, and seltzer are healthy drink options for diabetes. Find out what else a diabetic can drink besides water and what to avoid.

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by
April Benshosan
— Signos
Health Writer
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Reviewed by

April Benshosan
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
April 23, 2024
August 15, 2023
— Updated:

Table of Contents

If you live with diabetes, your doctor or dietitian likely recommended cutting sugary drinks out of your diet to prevent blood sugar spikes. But that doesn't have to mean all liquid calories are off the table. While you should still steer clear of soda and fruit juice on the reg, plenty of other beverages you can enjoy when you're tired of plain water. As with the rest of your diet, the key is to avoid options high in sugar and choose drinks that contain minimal to no carbs.

Here's everything you need to know about drinks for diabetes that aren't just H2O. 

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What Can Diabetics Drink? An 8-Drinks List

Water doesn't spike your blood sugar, so it will always be the best beverage choice for people living with diabetes. Plain water also helps dilute your blood, keeping your blood sugar levels in check. But when you need variety, many drinks can fit into a low-sugar meal plan. Here are some of the best drinks to choose from:

Sparkling Water

Seltzer or sparkling water is a great bubbly, no-sugar alternative to soda when you're craving that fizz. While there are so many different sparkling water flavors (usually flavored with calorie-free natural flavors), you can also DIY it and add a slice of lemon or cucumber to plain sparkling water. 

Cow’s Milk

Dairy milk is a solid source of protein, vitamin D, and calcium, and because non-skimmed varieties contain fat, they won't raise your blood sugar levels as quickly since fat helps stabilize blood glucose. Still, milk contains carbs (from lactose, the natural sugar found in milk), so stick to drinking just a glass a day and opt for whole milk, 1%, or 2% varieties for those blood sugar-stabilizing fats.1

Unsweetened Soy Milk

If you're not a fan of dairy or can't consume it, unsweetened soy milk is a great alternative to cow's milk. It's rich in plant protein, and one glass has about 4 grams of carbs. Almond milk is also a sound option (so long as it's unsweetened), but it doesn't contain much protein.2

Tea

There are so many different types of non-caffeinated herbal teas and caffeinated black and green teas to choose from that offer health benefits, and no, bubble tea doesn't count. Try brewing a plain cup of tea to get more antioxidants into your day. Whether you drink it hot or iced, remember to skip adding sugar, honey, or agave (or any other caloric sweetener) to your cup. 

Unsweetened Coffee

Coffee is linked with helping improve the sugar breakdown process in people living with type 2 diabetes. So when you need an energy boost, feel free to brew a cup, but skip the sugar.3

Vegetable Juice

Fruit juice is notoriously high in sugar, but vegetable juice, such as tomato juice, is a great alternative packed with nutrients. Veggies still contain carbohydrates, so make sure to track those and factor them into your day. 

Homemade Fruit Smoothie

Bottled smoothies are often sky-high in sugar, but blending a smoothie at home with low-sugar fruits, such as berries, and a bit of milk or water is a great way to get your sweet fix. Just remember to count those carbs for the day. 

Certain Functional Beverages

Countless brands of tasty functional drinks are cropping up, and many are great soda alternatives for people with diabetes. Look for drinks that are low in sugar and contain some blood glucose-stabilizing fiber, which can keep your glucose levels in check and potentially aid in weight loss. Halfday Iced Tea fits the bill, with just 3 grams of sugar and 8 grams of fiber per can. Poppi is another good option, with 4 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fiber per can. 

4 Drinks in The 'Maybe But Better Avoid Zone' for Diabetes

Certain drinks, such as fruit juices, diet sodas, and alcohol, might not be the best drinks for diabetes, but that doesn't mean they're entirely off-limits. You'll just want to enjoy them in moderation and factor in those carbs if your bev of choice contains sugar.

Keep the following drinks to a minimum:

Fruit Juices

One cup of orange juice contains about 26 grams of carbs and 21 grams of sugar. If you choose to drink fruit juice, opt for one that's 100 percent fruit juice (not from concentrate) and contains no added sugars, and stick to drinking just 4 ounces to help limit a potentially drastic blood sugar spike. (4)

Artificially Sweetened Drinks

Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, aspartame, and ace-K, are responsible for sweetening diet sodas. While they don't contain any calories and won't spike your blood sugar, some research suggests they can cause you to crave sweets more if you consume them too often. 

Because the jury is still out on whether artificial sweeteners are completely innocuous, you'll want to drink artificially sweetened beverages in moderation and work with your healthcare team to determine how much is OK for you.5

Alcoholic Drinks

A cocktail here and there is OK, but don't make drinking alcohol a habit. If you do drink, it's recommended to stick to no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. 

Choose zero-sugar or low-sugar options, such as dry wine or using seltzer as a mixer. But note that alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop because your liver stops releasing glucose when metabolizing alcohol, raising your risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).6,7

The 3 Worst Drinks for Diabetics 

There are a few drinks that are best avoided if you live with diabetes. Mainly, you'll want to steer clear of drinks that are sky-high in sugar, as they can send your blood glucose levels soaring. Here are the top offenders:

Regular Sodas

One can of regular sodas packs 52 grams of carbs coming from sugar as well as about 200 calories and zero beneficial nutrients. Regularly drinking sodas can contribute to weight gain and obesity and make it harder for you to manage your diabetes. When craving a Coke, reach for a zero-sugar version, or better yet, sip sparkling water.8

Sports Drinks

Just because they have electrolytes and vitamins doesn't mean sports drinks are a safe bet. Most options are loaded with added sugars, which can rapidly spike your blood sugar. If you need to replenish your electrolytes, opt for unsweetened coconut water, which has around 8 grams of carbs per cup.

Energy Drinks

Not only are regular energy drinks high in sugar, but they have about the same amount of sugar as soda per serving and are a big source of caffeine. Too much caffeine frequently can contribute to insulin resistance and decrease insulin sensitivity if you live with type 2 diabetes.9

5 Homemade Diabetic-Friendly Drinks Ideas 

Aside from shopping for safe drink choices at the grocery store, you can also concoct your drinks at home with simple ingredients. Next time you're craving flavor, up your hydration levels with these diabetic-friendly drink ideas and recipes: 

Homemade Chocolate Milk

You can easily whip up the most comforting low-carb hot chocolate at home. Just boil a cup of low-fat milk, melt two squares of extra-dark chocolate (aim for at least 70% cacao) or zero-sugar dark chocolate in the mug, and add a couple of drops of vanilla extract. To reduce carbs, swap four ounces of milk for water.

Homemade Tea Lattes

Skip the caloric coffee shop lattes and make one in your kitchen to reduce sugar. For a tasty chai latte, steep a bag of chai tea in half a cup of boiling water for at least five minutes, and then add half a cup of hot unsweetened milk (like dairy or plain soy or almond milk) and a half packet of stevia or another zero-calorie sugar substitute. Top off your tea with cinnamon or nutmeg for extra flavor. 

Homemade Ginger Ale

Yes, you can make a healthier ginger ale at home in under five minutes. Simply grate a tablespoon or two of fresh ginger into sparkling water, and then add your go-to sugar substitute to taste. You'll save 20 grams of carbs; that's the amount in a cup of regular ginger ale.

Homemade Fruity Iced Tea

Steep two bags of your go-to fruity teas (try combining raspberry or orange tea with lemon-ginger tea) in 1 cup of boiling water; add 1 cup of cold water and then muddle in some fresh berries, grate in some lemon zest, and then refrigerate it for at least an hour for a refreshing yet low-sugar take on your favorite childhood drink.

Homemade Lemonade

Many bottled lemonades contain around 30 grams of carbs per cup. Instead of succumbing to a glass on a sweltering day, squeeze two lemons into a tall glass of ice water and add a few drops of liquid sugar-free sweetener for a super low-sugar lemonade.10

Learn How To Manage Blood Sugar Levels with Signos’ Expert Advice 

If you live with diabetes, you know that keeping tabs on your blood sugar levels is the number one thing you can do to gain more control over your condition. With Signos' continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), you can record the food and drinks you consume and gain valuable insights into what affects your blood sugar levels so you can tweak your diet and lifestyle — and ultimately adopt healthier habits. To learn even more about diabetes-related nutrition and healthy habits, check out Signos’ blog.

Ready to try CGMs? Take this quick quiz to find out if Signos is right for you.

Discover how to live well with diabetes with the help of Signos wearable CGM.

People Also Ask: 

What drinks are good for diabetes?

Just because you live with diabetes doesn't mean you have to stick to drinking water all the time. While H2O is still the healthiest choice, you can add some variety to your meal plan with low-sugar drinks, such as flavored sparkling water, unsweetened dairy or soy milk, unsweetened coffee and tea (hot or iced), homemade smoothie with low-sugar fruits, and low-sugar vegetable juice.

What can a diabetic drink instead of water?

You have options when you're tired of plain water. Always read nutrition labels, choose drinks low in carbs and sugar, and enjoy them in moderation. Some diabetic-friendly drinks include flavored sparkling water, unsweetened dairy or soy milk, unsweetened coffee and tea (hot or iced), homemade smoothies with low-sugar fruits, low-sugar vegetable juice, and zero-sugar drinks.

Is cranberry juice good for diabetes?

Many cranberry juices on grocery store shelves contain a sky-high amount of added sugars to balance the tartness of the berries. One cup of regular cranberry juice contains around 33 grams of carbs coming from sugar, and these added sugars can quickly raise blood sugar levels in people living with diabetes. If you want cranberry juice, choose a low-sugar variety or drink just 4 ounces instead of a full cup. 

What three drinks should you avoid if you have diabetes?

The top three drinks you should avoid if you live with diabetes are regular sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks. These beverages are all very high in sugar and can send your blood glucose levels soaring.

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About the author

April is a writer, editor, and content strategist with a Master’s degree in Publishing.

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