Diabetes Diet: 11 Low-Sugar Drink Ideas

Reviewed on 10/19/2016

Smart Swaps

A woman sipping on a tasty drink.

Ideally, we should all be drinking more water. It provides hydration free of sugar, carbs, and calories. If water is too plain for your taste, there are other ways to quench your thirst.

Be wary of “healthy drinks” though; many of them are surprisingly high in sugar and calories. Many of the beverages you crave can be tailored to fit easily into a diabetes-friendly lifestyle.

1. Chocolate Milk

A close up of chocolate milk.

Chocolate milk isn’t just for kids. It’s rich in protein and calcium that’s great for adults, too. Low-fat chocolate milk is a great beverage choice to help you recover from a workout. Store-bought chocolate milk is typically laden with sugar, but you can make a DIY version at home that’s compatible with your diabetes eating plan. Take a glass of 1% milk and add 3 teaspoons of cocoa and 2 tablespoons of no-calorie sweetener. Stir until well mixed and enjoy!

2. Sugar-Free Sweet Tea

Ice tea on a tray outside.

Sweetened tea is satisfying on a hot summer’s day, but it packs a sugar and calorie punch that can derail your diabetes dietary goals. You can enjoy this friendlier low-sugar option: Crush your favorite fruit (berries work well for this) and add it to steeping tea. Strain the mixture and chill in the fridge. Add no-calorie sweetener, if you wish. Pour over ice and enjoy!

3. Orange Juice

Glasses of orange juice.

What would brunch be without orange juice? Unfortunately, traditional versions of this sunny drink are far from diabetes friendly, packing about 26 grams of sugar per cup. Instead, reach for light versions of this tasty favorite. Aim for one that has 15 calories, 3 grams of carbs, and 100% of your daily vitamin C per serving. Or just peel and enjoy an orange to satisfy your craving. You can also add a splash of orange juice to seltzer water.

4. Chai Latte

A close up of chai tea latte.

What’s fragrant, spicy, sweet, and creamy all at the same time? A traditional chai latte packs about 33 grams of carbs per serving, but you can enjoy the same taste and satisfaction with this lighter homemade version that has less than 1 gram of carbs. Heat 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk and steep one or two chai tea bags in it. Add cinnamon and black pepper to taste. Pour into a mug and enjoy this warming treat.

5. Lemonade

Lemonade in a glass with a lemon garnish.

What’s summer without lemonade? The traditional version has 120 calories and 29 grams of sugar per serving. Instead, try mixing some water with fresh lemon juice. Add no-calorie sweetener and pour over ice. Now you can enjoy this summertime favorite without the downside.

6. Hot Chocolate

A cup of hot chocolate with whip cream.

It’s the drink that makes you want to curl up next to a fire on a cold winter’s night. Steamy hot chocolate topped with a dollop of whipped cream satisfies on so many levels, but coffeehouse versions are often sugar bombs. A medium hot chocolate with low-fat milk delivers about 60 grams of carbs. The good news is, you don’t have to go without! You can make your own, just as satisfying, low-sugar option. Warm 1 cup of low-fat milk in a saucepan and add 2 squares of 70% dark chocolate. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. This decadent drink has just 23 grams of carbs.

7. Apple Cider

A glass of spiced apple cider with cinnamon sticks.

The drink that defines autumn would have to be apple cider. Unfortunately, this sweet, spicy drink is loaded with just as much sugar (26 grams per cup) as its counterpart, apple juice. To satisfy your apple cider craving, have a light apple juice cocktail instead to save yourself half the amount of carbs and calories.

8. Energy Drinks

A man opening an energy drink can.

An average energy drink contains between 72 milligrams to 150 milligrams of caffeine and up to 30 grams of sugar per serving. Many energy drinks contain 2 to 3 servings per container, so the caffeine and sugar you get from these beverages can really add up. Many experts agree that most people should limit their total daily caffeine intake to no more than 400 milligrams per day. Children, adolescents, women of reproductive age, and those with certain medical conditions should limit caffeine intake even further. If you must have an energy drink, choose a sugar-free version and keep an eye on your caffeine intake.

9. Fruit Smoothie

A close up of a blender with mixed berries and milk inside.

Fruit smoothies can be deceptively unhealthy and loaded with carbs and sugar, especially when they are made with high sugar fruits like mangoes. One popular chain restaurant offers a 12-ounce mango smoothie that has 58.5 grams of carbs. That’s equivalent to the amount of carbs found in a sandwich and an apple combined. Satisfy your smoothie craving with a homemade version containing ½ cup of strawberries, ½ cup of blueberries, and ½ cup of bananas. Blend the mixture with ice and you have a smoothie that has approximately half the carbs found in traditional versions.

10. Diet Ginger Ale

Glasses of ginger ale with citrus garnish.

Ginger ale has a surprising 60 grams of carbs per 20-ounce bottle. You can enjoy the same taste, sugar free and carb free, by finely grating a bit of fresh ginger into some plain seltzer water. Add a little no-calorie sweetener. Mix, pour into a glass, and drink up!

11. Café Mocha

Café mochas on a tray.

Café mochas are a beautiful marriage between coffee and chocolate, but the kind you get in coffeehouses may contain more than 300 calories and 40 grams of carbs. You can save substantially on calories and sugar by making your own version. The recipe calls for 1 cup of brewed coffee, 2 tablespoons of low-fat milk, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, and no-calorie sweetener to taste. Pour in a mug and enjoy this chocolaty treat guilt free!

Diabetes Diet: 11 Low-Sugar Drink Ideas

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