Favorite Things Friday: Zero-Carb Beverages (Beyond Water!)

Water is crucial to life. Half of the human body is water, nearly three-quarters of Earth is water, and it’s recommended to drink half a gallon of water per day. Clearly, there’s no disputing its benefits. Especially when it’s a naturally zero-carb beverage – a benefit to people with diabetes, who must keep careful track of the amount of carbs consumed in a day. That’s why it’s usually easier for a PWD to stick with diet or sugar-free drinks as opposed to alternatives.

But let’s face it, water can get boring. Sometimes, a drink with flavor is the only way to quench a thirst. So I decided to assemble a list of my favorite simultaneously diet/low-carb, tasty, and refreshing drinks that I enjoy and are a notch above ole H20:

  • Diet Cranberry Juice. Ocean Spray makes a classic flavor as well as a variety of blends – my favorite is cranberry lime. It runs at about 2 grams of carbohydrate for 8 ounces, so to curb this, I typically pour 2-3 ounces and fill the rest of my glass with water.
  • Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk. A few years ago, I started drinking almond milk with my cereal instead of traditional dairy milk, and I haven’t looked back. It’s both a low-carb and low-calorie alternative that satisfies just as much as other milks.
  • Seltzer water. Look beyond plain old lemon seltzer water – there’s a whole world of flavors out there! Polar beverages makes a seemingly endless array of seltzers. They even had a unicorn variety over the summer that tasted like cotton candy and rainbows. I love experimenting and trying new flavors frequently, which helps assure that I don’t get tired of seltzers.
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My favorite “magical” seltzer water.
  • Sparkling water. This tends to pack a bit more of a punch in terms of flavor than seltzer water. I’ve found a bunch of great-tasting bottles at the supermarket, from coconut pineapple to açai blueberry.
  • Bai drinks. Sometimes, I take a break from the carbonation and stock up on bottles of these antioxidant fusion drinks. They’re made with erithytrol, which is a kind of sugar that has no affect on blood glucose levels. They’re seriously tasty and come in several tropical flavors that make you feel like you’re lounging on a beach. Plus, their advertisers get bonus points because they used a favorite N*Sync song as part of their marketing.
  • Drink packets. There’s about a million different kinds of drink packets, drops, and mixes out there. Just about all of them clock in at zero carbs, and few to no calories. It can be fun to try all the mixes out there to find out which ones taste the best.
  • Tea. A great alternative hot drink and another beverage with tons of flavors out there. I drink tea black, and most do not have carbohydrates, so it’s another “freebie” drink option that hydrates as well as warms me up.

Do you have any favorite zero-carb or diet drinks that I didn’t mention on this list?


An Ode to Diet Coke

Growing up, Diet Coke was my lifeblood. It was my zero-carb drink of choice with every meal, the one beverage I craved when dealing with high blood sugar. Liters of it were in my house at all times, because once a fresh bottle was popped open, it was certain that it wouldn’t last long.

But as I got older (and wiser, I’d like to think), I realized that I needed to wean myself off Diet Coke for my health. My water intake was practically non-existent, and reports of large quantities of soda made me wary of what it was doing to my body. So I replaced Diet Coke, slowly, with flavored water and sparkling water. At first, it was tough, but I got used to it. Gradually, Diet Coke evolved from an everyday dietary staple to a monthly indulgence. I didn’t even really miss it as I began to incorporate funky flavors of seltzer water into my lineup of drinks.

Of course, it was harder to stay away from Diet Coke when I began working at my current job. Suddenly, a fully-stocked fridge of Coca-Cola products was within my reach. It wasn’t just Diet Coke, it was Coke Zero and its enticing kin, Vanilla and Cherry Coke Zero. Boy, was it difficult to avoid the temptation of cracking one open. I would cast longing looks in the direction of the red and black cans as I forced myself to opt for lime and mixed berry seltzer waters. The fizz quelled my desire for carbonation, but it was far from replacing the peppery sweet satisfaction of an ice-cold sip of Diet Coke.

A few months ago, though, my attitude towards my diet soda ban changed. Why was I depriving myself so much? What’s the harm in having a Diet Coke once or twice a week? Surely, that would be an improvement compared to my younger years of gulping down gallons of the cola weekly. So I’ve stuck with this plan, and I’m happier to have rekindled a more positive relationship with my beloved diet drink of choice.

And everything came full circle when I visited the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this month. A fellow T1D friend and I had an absolute field day tasting dozens (and I mean DOZENS) of diet and sugar-free Coca-Cola products. Seriously, that Coca-Cola Freestyle machine is an amazing invention. Without it, we never would’ve discovered how awesome Sprite Zero Strawberry tastes, or how aesthetically alarming diet Fanta products are, with their neon green and purple hues. We felt like diet soda wizards, summoning the most wild flavor combinations from the machine with just a touch of a button. Though our bellies quickly filled up from all the carbonation, we had a blast experimenting with all the zero-sugar possibilities. Plus, learning the history of Coca-Cola and experiencing all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes made for a fabulously fun afternoon.

Ah, Diet Coke – I admit that I tried to quit you, but you’re just a part of my life. You’ve consoled me through sticky high blood sugars and you’ve been my drink of choice at countless parties and occasions over the years. Thanks for being a loyal pal to this T1D.