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Diabetes - food choices - drinks

Drinks and diabetes

Water is a good choice for people with diabetes, but for variety you can also choose from options such as tea, coffee and diet soft drinks. Watch for sugar content in fruit juice and flavoured drinks. If you are able to drink alcohol, make sure you always have it with food and not on an empty stomach.

Drink choices


  • Water
  • Tea or coffee
  • Diet soft/fizzy drinks
  • Artificially sweetened cordials, powdered drinks or chocolate drink powders
  • Unflavoured mineral or soda water 
  • 'Diet' or low kilojoule or low calorie drinks.


  • Drink plenty of sugar-free drinks if blood glucose levels are high. Water is the best thirst quencher. Also see: High blood glucose type 1 and High blood glucose type 2 diabetes
  • Milo/Bournvita/ Ovaltine used in moderation (1 tsp per cup) are not likely to raise blood glucose levels above desirable levels
  • Tonic water doesn't taste sweet but does contain sugar. Use diet tonic water.


  • Flavoured water may contain carbohydrates. Check the label
  • Freshly squeezed juice is high in natural sugar
  • 'No Added Sugar': May still contain a lot of natural sugar - check the carbohydrate content on the label
  • Fruit juices, ordinary soft drink, sports drinks and cordials provide extra carbohydrate and can raise blood glucose above desirable levels
  • Watch the quantity you are drinking. The label may not have much carbohydrate per 100ml but an average serve is much bigger than 100ml - watch the amount you drink and check out the serving size. The serving size on the label may not be the amount you drink.



  • If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you should drink alcohol
  • Limit alcohol drinks to 2 per day for women and 3 per day for men (1 standard drink = 100ml wine, 30ml spirits, 300ml beer). This is smaller than most glasses you may be used to
  • Aim to have several alcohol-free days each week
  • Use diet drinks as mixes for spirits, not ‘ready to drink’ pre-mixes.


  • Have food with alcohol and never drink on an empty stomach.
  • Alcohol is high in calories so may contribute to weight gain.

Also see the Food & Nutrition section on the Diabetes New Zealand website (contact details below under 'Further Information and Support'). 

Original material provided by Diabetes New Zealand, 2008. Edited by everybody, August 2011.

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