July 14, 2015

Cheers! The Real Deal on Drinks & Diabetes

Healthy-cocktails-article (1)Watching what you eat is only half the story with carb-counting. To maintain good control with diabetes, you also have to pay attention to what you drink. Here are some tips:

Everyday Beverages

Checking nutritional fact labels on drinks is a useful place to start. Even if you’re not eating them, those grams of carbohydrate still count! In fact, your body processes nutrients in liquid faster than in food.

When looking for a low-impact drink, I prefer things like water, seltzer, diet beverages, coffee, and tea. There are lots of ways to sweeten your drinks that won’t affect your blood sugar. Stevia is probably my favorite sweetener, since it’s less processed than others. Plus, I can grow it myself!

Here’s how I count a serving (8 fluid ounces) of my everyday drinks:

coffee with milk= 3gm

Diet Snapple= 0gm

Diet Sprite= 0gm

herbal tea= 0gm

milk= 12gm

mineral water= 0gm

orange juice= 26gm

Vitamin Water Zero= 2gm

water= 0gm


Thanks to Dr. Karin Hehenberger’s blog video, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKXu8aUm8pE), I finally understand how liquor affects my system. Karin explains that your liver can become overtaxed with processing alcohol, and this limits your ability to process sugar. So after a few drinks, any carbs you consume just get put on your liver’s waitlist. If you’re trying to treat a low blood sugar, you won’t have much success until your liver has finished dealing with the alcohol.

To avoid this type of disaster, I make sure to test my blood sugar before I have any alcohol. I often eat a snack too. This way, I can be sure my glucose levels aren’t going to drop while my liver’s busy with other matters.

Distilled Liquor 

Unfortunately, it’s rare to find nutritional facts on alcoholic beverages. And I’ve discovered that most mixed drinks are packed with sugar. Lucky for those of us with diabetes though, distilled liquors are mostly sugar-free. So to keep things from getting complicated, I do my best to stay away from high-carb cocktails. My go-to bar choices are a vodka-soda or a “whiskey and DIET coke.”

Party Drinks

Be wary of those homemade summer punches. And forget about trying to ask a bartender about the carbohydrate content of a margarita. Alcoholic party drinks are almost always just different variations of liquid candy. They probably have over 60 grams of carbohydrate in a cup, which is close to a whole meal! Just test your blood, make sure you’re not going low, and then ask for something that you know doesn’t have any sugar.

I’ve never confirmed these suspicions, but I’m pretty sure beer is not a great choice for people with diabetes. I say this because it fills you up, it gives you a pot-belly, and it’s made from grains… Which leads me to believe that there are some carbs in this one. If you have more info on beer than I do, please share!


Some wines are as sweet as juice. I don’t touch these ones. But I’ve learned that in wine terminology, “dry” means “not sweet.” So I always ask for a “dry wine.”

On the back of a wine bottle, you can often find a description of what to expect once it’s been opened. These usually hint at whether the wine is dry or not, and they’re fun to read anyway. Pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are pretty safe. They come chilled too, so they’re nice to have in the summer.

Mojito Recipe

With so many limitations on drinks, you might be wondering what to serve at your next summer event. Ideally, you’d like something that’s diabetic-friendly, but still palatable.

Don’t worry! I’m going to share my “secret,” no-carb, summer cocktail recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it:

    • lots of muddled stevia leaves (or liquid stevia)
    • muddled mint leaves
    • Crystal Lite Lemonade mixed to taste (or half lemon juice/half water with extra sweetener)
    • vodka
    • pour over ice