Monday Medical: Diabetes and drinks |

Monday Medical: Diabetes and drinks

Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

For people with diabetes, sugary beverages can make managing blood sugar a challenge. But with refreshing, creative, lower-carb options, you don’t have to miss out.

“It’s possible for people with diabetes to enjoy beverages, maintain hydration and manage blood sugar,” said Pam Wooster, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Below, Wooster outlines her favorite healthy beverages for any time of year. The best part? These drinks are good choices for anyone, with or without diabetes.


“Water is probably the best fluid for maintaining hydration for people with diabetes,” Wooster said. “It’s easily accessible, and it doesn’t have any carbohydrates to spike blood sugars.”

To spice it up, try sparkling water. Natural flavors are fine, just avoid added sugar.


Four ounces of juice has about 15 grams of carbohydrates, which can quickly raise blood sugar. Try low-sodium vegetable juice instead. Even better: make your own juice with a juicer or blender, adding in vegetables such as cucumbers to keep carbs low.

“These homemade juices can help you hydrate and add nutrition to your diet,” Wooster said.

For more

Add some flair to your beverage lineup with the following recipes, courtesy of Pam Wooster, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Cucumber mint mocktail: In a glass, add half of a chopped cucumber, 2 teaspoon lime juice, 3 to 5 fresh mint leaves and stevia to taste. Mix in crushed ice and sparkling water, and serve with a slice of lime.

Homemade ginger ale: Grate 1/2 to 1 teaspoom of fresh ginger into sparkling water.

Chocolate milk: Mix unsweetened almond or coconut milk with 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder and stevia to taste. For a hot version, heat almond milk, dark chocolate and a pinch of cinnamon in a saucepan.

Infused waters

Up the flavor factor by adding a splash of natural juice to your water, or by infusing the water with berries, melon, mint, cucumber or fresh ginger.

“When we’re infusing and using fruits, we’re adding nutrition — vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients,” Wooster said. “It’s a great way to create refreshing flavors and also helps you use up produce that might be sitting around.”

Tea and coffee

“Herbal teas have polyphenols, which help protect against inflammation and carcinogens,” Wooster said. “We can ice them down in the summer or drink them hot in the winter.”

Add crushed fruit for a naturally sweet tea. Or, try a low-carb chai latte by steeping a chai teabag in unsweetened almond milk, then adding cinnamon and black pepper.

Coffee is also a good option, but be aware that, for some people, caffeine may increase blood sugar. Also be wary of add-ins such as milk and sugar, which contribute carbohydrates.

If you’re using a calorie-free sweetener, Wooster recommends stevia as it is a natural option that may help lower blood pressure. Other calorie-free sweeteners may increase risks of health issues such as cancer, dementia or weight gain.


While smoothies can be a quick meal when you’re on the go, they can also be chock-full of carbs. Add in vegetables such as spinach or kale to increase nutrition and decrease carbohydrates, and choose lower-carb fruit such as berries. For a fiber boost, add chia seeds or ground flaxseed.


When it comes to alcoholic drinks, moderation is key. “Many alcoholic beverages contain sugar and carbohydrates,” Wooster said. “And just like for everyone, excess alcohol leads to liver disease and other problems.”

People with diabetes should know that symptoms of low blood sugar can make someone appear to be intoxicated, and should be careful not to confuse the two.

Choosing healthy beverages is important whether you’re managing diabetes or simply trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“These recommendations are good for general health, too,” Wooster said.

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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