Diabetes and diet sodas: What you need to know
Michelle Katz, MS, RD, certified diabetes care and education specialist Apr 20, 2023 • 4 min
What drinks should I avoid if I have diabetes?
Drinks that contain large amounts of added sugars are generally not recommended for people with diabetes. Sugary drinks can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. They’re also usually high in calories, so consuming too many can lead to weight gain and make your blood sugar harder to control.
Some drinks you should avoid if you have diabetes include:
- Sugared soda
- Energy drinks
- Fruit juices and fruit juice drinks
- Sports drinks
- Sweet tea
- Hot, cold and blended drinks that contain sugar or syrups
Do diet sodas contain sugar?
Diet sodas are sugar-free, and most contain few or zero calories. In place of sugar, soft drink manufacturers use natural and artificial noncaloric or low-calorie sweeteners for taste. These include aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and stevia.
Are artificial sweeteners OK for people with diabetes?
Sweeteners with few or no calories include both man-made substances and ingredients derived from nature. Generally, these sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar levels, and they have no or very little effect on calorie intake. As a result, your healthcare provider may give you the go-ahead to enjoy artificial sweeteners in moderation.
Keep in mind that some other health conditions may make artificial sweeteners less than ideal for you. People with the genetic disease phenylketonuria should avoid aspartame, as it could cause serious health problems. Individuals with some bowel problems may experience flare-ups if they drink beverages or eat foods that contain artificial sweeteners.
Can someone with diabetes drink diet soda?
Since it doesn't contain sugar and has few or no calories, diet soda can typically fit into a healthy eating plan for diabetes. However, it’s a good idea to vary your beverage choices and not drink diet soda exclusively.
Drinking water is one of the best ways to stay hydrated. You can make water more enjoyable by adding slices of fruits, such as lemons, berries or cucumbers. Unflavored sparkling and mineral waters can also be a refreshing change of pace.
Some other beverages that are generally good choices include:
- No- or low-calorie drink mixes
- Unsweetened hot tea
- Diet or unsweetened iced tea
- Unsweetened hot or iced coffee
Most people with diabetes can enjoy a small serving of no-sugar-added fruit juice, low-fat or
fat-free milk, unsweetened soy and nut milks, and low-sodium vegetable juice as part of a healthy meal plan. Still, it’s a good idea to check the nutrition label since some of these beverages may contain more than 5 grams of sugar per serving and can have a greater impact on your blood sugar levels as a result.
Making healthy choices
If you have diabetes, each healthy food and beverage choice you make can have a positive impact on your health. By controlling your blood sugar through diet, exercise and the treatments recommended by your healthcare provider, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes-related complications, like heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and vision problems.
Talk to your healthcare provider about including diet sodas in your diet. They can provide you with individualized advice based on your medical history and current treatment plan.
Published April 2023.