- Try to stick with natural, whole ingredients in your drinks. Unnecessary added sugars are often the culprit behind a drink-related BG rise & most of these can be easily avoided by following this recommendation. In general, unflavored silver rum, silver tequila, whiskey/bourbon and vodka will have very little added sugar; however, the cheaper, flavored versions of those alcohols almost always have a lot of added sugar. Similarly, flavored syrups used in coffee beverages taste good but have a lot of sugar (which is why they taste good) – this is easily handled by using sugar free syrup options.
- Look for beverages with fewer ingredients and with sparkling water or citrus bases, as opposed to drinks that are built around a juice or soda (like tonic or ginger beer). It is easier to find ingredients for these types of beverages to swap out without ruining the integrity of the drink. Most bars and restaurants unfortunately don’t offer diet versions of common soda bases like tonic and ginger beer, although it never hurts to ask.
- Identify sugary ingredients you can swap out or cut entirely, such as simple syrup, agave, etc. I have found that nine times out of ten, simple syrup is just not necessary to enhance the flavor of a beverage; it just makes it super sweet. A lot of beverages stand just fine on their own, or they’re naturally sweetened with a little fruit or a small amount of a flavored liqueur. When you swap a soda base for sparkling water; you might lose the sweetening agent from the soda so replacing it with an artificial sweetener might be a good idea.
- Try to avoid mixers whenever possible; some restaurants or clubs will use mixes or mixers to shorten the amount of time required to make a drink, and mixers usually have an enormous amount of sugar and unnecessary calories. Let’s take a mojito for example: A mojito at BJ’s Brewery, mix included, has 38g of sugar, 41 carbs, and is about 300 calories. A traditional mojito made with silver rum, soda water, mint, lime and an artificial sweetener has about 1g sugar, 0 carbs, and is 100 calories (and won’t give you a horrible hangover).
- For the times when cutting a sugary ingredient leaves you with a tart and/or boring drink, stay prepared with your own alternate sweeteners. Restaurants will have them, but there’s no guarantee a bar or club will, so just pack a couple in your wallet or purse. I like to carry liquid Stevia with me when I travel, especially, because it mixes in well with both hot and cold beverages.
- Carefully review drink options on a menu and its listed ingredients. When you find a beverage you are interested in, always ask the waiter/waitress/bartender if all of the ingredients listed are the sum total of what is in the drink. Sometimes they leave basic but impactful (to you) ingredients off their descriptions, such as the addition of simple syrup. This will help you avoid a nasty surprise (like an “oh no my BG is 300 for no reason” surprise) and you can then ask them to leave it out of your drink.
- If you’d like to drink wine: Dry red or white wines are your best bet because they have the least residual sugar. I’m noticing a lot of mixed drinks are starting to include wines such as rosés, prosecco, and champagne; be careful with those because they can be misleadingly sugary (even if they don’t taste sweet).
- If you’d like to drink beer: Obviously, the light beers have less carbs than a standard beer. If you’re so discerning as to want to avoid light beers, in general the ales, blondes and wheats appear to be slightly lower in carbs – no surprise there.
- If you’re somewhere where your options are extremely limited (like a club): Some people like vodka & soda water – that’s cool if you like straight vodka. I prefer a diet coke & (insert liquor of choice, such as rum or whiskey). Those are pretty hard to screw up, no matter how busy the place is.
Info from Jen Walton at sugarfreemixology.com