By Chris Iliades, MD Medically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH diabetes friendly beverages One of the biggest pitfalls for a type 2 diabetes diet is washing down healthy foods with not-so-healthy beverages. With type 2 diabetes, you know you need to count your carbs and calories. But just one sugary drink can sink your best diet intentions faster than a fast-food feast. Good beverages for diabetes can still be flavorful and satisfying without the extra carbs and calories, but you need to know how to avoid unhealthy drink choices. The link between sugary beverages and diabetes is strong. In fact, for those who don’t yet have type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests that eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages can lower the risk of developing diabetes significantly. The study, published in the journal Diabetologica in 2013, collected data from approximately 27,000 people in Europe and found that just one 12-ounce, sugar-sweetened beverage a day can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes by about 20 percent. “Most people with diabetes know that regular soda should be avoided, but other beverages, even those marketed as ‘healthy’ choices, may not be any better for blood sugar control,” says Lanah J. Brennan, RD, CDE, a nutrition consultant at Reactive Nutrition in Lafayette, La. Bad Beverages for Diabetes Sugary drinks like regular cola, sweetened fruit punch, and sweet tea are the most obvious offenders, but an unhealthy beverage for diabetes can also be disguised as a high-energy drink or even a natural fruit juice. Learn about these common bad-choice beverages and why it's best to avoid them: Soft drinks. “One 12-ounce regular cola has about the same amount of carbs as three slices of bread,” says Katie Barbera, RD, CDE, a registered dietician and diabetes educator at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. A 12-ounce can of regular soda also has 150 calories, or 10 teaspoons of sugar. High-energy drinks. “Sports drinks are created for athletes who need to replace nutrients lost during exercise," Brennan says. "These beverages typically contain added sodium and sugar, which are not needed unless a person exercises strenuously for more than 90 minutes." For a walk around the block, just take a bottle of water instead. Fruit juice. Even an all-natural fruit juice with no sugar added can pack a hefty load of carbs and calories. Just 4 to 6 ounces can give you 15 grams of carbohydrates and 50 calories or more. “You’re better off eating whole fruit," Barbera says. "You get much more nutrients and fiber, and fewer carbs and calories.” Another option is to have a cup of low-salt vegetable juice instead of fruit juice. Coffee. “Coffee drinks made with added sugars and whipped cream may seem like a good way to start the morning or give you an afternoon pick-me-up, but what you're picking up is actually body weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol," Brennan says. "Most of these coffee drinks contain enough calories for a whole meal." Instead, opt for black coffee and flavor it with cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract. Milk. “Eight ounces of whole milk has 12 grams of carbohydrate," Barbera says. "Stick to low-fat, fat-free, or skim milk." Low-fat milk still has some carbs and calories, but it’s a healthy drink for a diabetes diet because you're also getting important vitamins and minerals. You just need to control your portions, so drink no more than eight ounces, and count it in your meal plan. Unflavored or light soy milk is another good option, especially if you’re lactose intolerant. Alcohol. “Alcohol in moderation — one drink per day for women and two for men — may have some health benefits, but it can also be a source of excess calories and may increase blood sugar levels if mixed with sugary drink mixers or fruit juices," Brennan says. "Stick to drinks mixed with club soda or have a glass of dry red wine." A “dry” wine contains little or no residual sugar. Also, watch out for sweet dessert wines. Consider mixing dry red wine with zero-calorie seltzer for a healthy wine spritzer. One 5-ounce serving of dry wine has no significant amount of carbohydrates, so even though you don’t need to count it as part of your diabetes diet, you still need to drink in moderation. “Any alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar," Barbera says, "so don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach when your blood sugar is low." Better Beverages for Diabetes “Moderation and portion control is the key," Barbera says. "If you want to add sugar and low-fat milk to your coffee, it’s not a big deal, but you need to know that 1 teaspoon of sugar is 5 grams of carbohydrate." Here are the top healthy drinks for diabetes — make them your go-to choices as often as possible:
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