10 Low-Carb Beverages To Drink When You Have Diabetes

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

Just because you control your diabetes with a low-carb diet doesn’t mean that you don’t have lots of choices of great drinks. In fact, all of the treats here will fit your healthy lifestyle and still satisfy your taste buds.

Chilled water bottle pouring into a glass
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Still water can be deeply satisfying

Water is so common that we take it for granted -- until we run out of it. Besides air, nothing is more necessary for life. But don’t settle for unfiltered tap water or waste money on bottles of it. A home filter removes impurities and greatly improves the taste by taking out the chlorine. Keeping a bottle of water in the fridge or adding ice cubes can give it some variety.

Fizzy water with ice and lemon on the side of the glass
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Fizzy water

You can buy sparkling water at all the food stores, but you can make it sparkle at home without buying bottles or carting them home. For years I’ve added fizz to my water and to my life with a Sodastream CO2 carbonator. Even better is enhancing its flavor with zero carb SweetLeaf Water Drops or by simply adding a slice of lemon.

Coffee
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Coffee is controversial

Is drinking coffee bad for people with diabetes? Or does it help? Hundreds of studies seem to show one extreme or the other. But many experts now say that drinking one to three cups to day is either neutral or helpful. If you like it white, instead of adding milk or half & half (too many carbs), you can switch to a milk alternative (see slide 9). Instead of sugar, you can use carb-free stevia.

Glass teacup and teapot both filled with steaming hot tea
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Tea is tempting

After water, more people drink tea than anything else. I’m one of them (along with my morning coffee), and I prefer some of the black teas that don’t need milk to bring out the flavor, especially those from the Assam and Darjeeling regions of India. Green tea from China with jasmine is another of my favorites. In fact, we have so many choices of tea that entire books are written about them.

Glass of herbal tea
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Herbal tea is a misnomer

What we call herbal tea is actually a tisane of fruit or herbs that contains no Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Whatever we call it, herbal tea offers even more choices than real tea. After sampling hundreds of them, the ones I like best are what Celestial Seasonings calls the zingers that include hibiscus. You too can take a few decades to explore these and the thousands of other herbal teas (just be careful to avoid teas that contain sugar for flavor).

The top of an opened soda can
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Soft drinks can quench your thirst

Sugar-free soft drinks are available everywhere, but researchers have some questions about their usual ingredients, so moderation is the key here. But some soft drinks, like some of KeVita’s sparkling probiotic drinks, have just one 1 gram of carbs per cup and at the same time give you both great taste and live microorganisms that can help your health.

Stethoscope and letter magnets spelling "electrolytes"
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Restore your electrolyte balance

Anyone who does sweaty work or exercises needs to make sure to replenish the minerals lost at work or play. Those of us who have diabetes need to be especially careful to stay in electrolyte balance. A tasty and low-carb (3 grams per scoop) choice that I have used for years is the Ultima Replenisher. I add it to my canteen and drink it on almost every hike.

Various vegan milks
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Milk alternatives

Because milk has 12 or 13 grams of carbs per cup, it doesn’t fit well into a low-carb diet. Fortunately, we have many plant-based alternatives. Among those that are plain and unsweetened, some have only 1 or 2 grams of carbs per cup, including almond milk, hemp milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, and soy milk. Your choice among these can depend on your taste preferences, their price, and availability.

Two glasses of lemonade
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Sugar-free lemonade

When the weather warms, nothing seems to taste better than lemonade. But the sugar should stop us, unless we can get it made without carbs. With stevia we have a natural sweetener that is carb-free. With TrueLemon we have a handy source of lemons that we can always have in our pantry.

Teacup of hot cocco
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Cocoa for the cold

Nothing seems to satisfy us more than a cup of hot chocolate when we come in from the cold. But many of us think of it as a guilty indulgence. In fact, cocoa is very low-carb and is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s the sugar that is sinful. When winter comes, I make a cup of hot chocolate with a teaspoon of Cocoa Powder, filtered water, an alternative milk, stevia, vanilla, and cinnamon. Delicious!

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.