Beverage choice can have a big impact on blood sugar

Reading the nutrition facts label on beverages is an important habit for diabetics.

Healthy beverage decisions can be difficult to make especially with soda machines in schools, gyms, and even at the park. Throughout the day teens have many opportunities to choose beverages.

Aside from water, or zero calorie beverages, most beverages including regular soda will impact blood sugar and for diabetics, insulin use. This is due to the amount of carbohydrates they contain.

The calories in beverages can be a big part of the total amount of calories we consume on a daily basis. Regularly choosing drinks high in calories and carbohydrates ultimately affects our weight. This includes fruit smoothies which are packed with carbohydrates and calories.

In the body, carbohydrates are broken down quickly into glucose and have an immediate effect on blood sugar. For diabetics, carbohydrates are counted as follows:

  • 1 carbohydrate choice = 15 grams of carbohydrate. Visit The American Diabetes Association for examples of foods within the 15 grams of carbohydrate range.
  • The carbohydrate guide ‘per meal’ is 45 grams of carbohydrates for women and 60 grams for men. Check with your health care team to identify your ‘per meal’ carbohydrate range. 

What to look for on the Nutrition Facts label

Some soda manufacturers have taken an active role in reducing the amount of sugar (per serving) by reducing the serving size and offering smaller packaging. For teens with type 1 diabetes (T1D), it’s important they practice the skill of regularly reading the Nutrition Facts label for both food items and beverages.  

This is especially important for beverages since they can be quickly consumed and the amount of carbohydrate in sugar sweetened sodas, coffees and fruit juices often exceeds 1 carbohydrate choice.

  • A 12 ounce can of ‘regular’ cola typically contains 30-40 grams of carbohydrate
  • 1 cup of fruit juice typically contains 30-35 grams of carbohydrate
  • Sugar sweetended iced coffee’s may contain up to 20 grams or more of carbohydrate

Always refer to total grams of carbohydrate on the label.  

Reading the nutrition facts label will help people with diabetes determine how the total amount of carbohydrates in a beverage contributes to their overall carbohydrate intake. 

Beverage choices are part of the diabetes self-management balancing act involving diet, exercise and insulin/medication usage. Your diabetes health care team can assist you in meal, beverage and carbohydrate counting.

Did you find this article useful?