Drinks and gestational diabetes
Staying well hydrated is very important during pregnancy and even more so if you have diabetes whilst pregnant. Drinking water doesn’t directly lower blood sugar levels, but it does flush excess sugar out of your system and so staying hydrated will help control and stabilise blood sugar levels.
Ideally you should be drinking around 2-3 litres (10 -12 glasses) at least, a day. You will need to drink even more during warmer weather or if you are exercising.
We recommend drinking a glass of water with AND in between every meal and snack during the day.
Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks containing caffeine should not be included as part of your recommended daily fluid intake as they are diuretics. Diuretics make you urinate more frequently, causing you to lose water. If you don’t like the taste of water then you could try carbonated water with lemon and lime added to it, or some sugar free squash. Be careful when choosing drinking squash which has ‘no added sugar’, it means exactly that, no ADDED sugar, but will still contain natural sugars. Check labels for the lowest total carbs for the best choices.
Drinks suitable for a GD diet
- Water, carbonated or still. Beware of flavoured waters that may contain sugar.
- Tea & coffee, decaffeinated or remember to include within your recommended daily intake
- Diet/Zero/No added sugar carbonated drinks
- No added sugar diluting squash (watch out for high juice or squashes with natural or concentrate fruit juices added)
- Raspberry leaf tea
- As a treat – Highlights, Options or Choc Shot hot chocolate with added whipped cream!
Diet, no added sugar and zero carbonated drinks
There are many alternatives to well loved, original full sugar drinks such as the following:
- Dr Pepper > Dr Pepper Zero
- Coke > Diet Coke or Coke Zero (please note that Coke Life still contains sugar)
- Pepsi > Diet Pepsi or Pepsi Max
- Fanta Orange > Fanta Orange Zero
- Fanta Icy Lemon > Fanta Icy Lemon Zero
- Lilt > Lilt Zero
- Sprite > Sprite Zero
- 7UP > 7UP Light/7UP free
- Irn Bru > Sugar Free Irn Bru
- Levi Roots drinks > Levi Roots Zero
- Vimto > No added sugar Vimto
- Cola > Diet cola
- Lemonade > Diet Lemonade
- Ginger Beer > Diet Ginger Beer
- Cream Soda > Diet Cream Soda
- Dandelion & Burdock > Diet Dandelion & Burdock
Whilst many of these drinks are not completely sugar free (even some zero ones still contain naturally occurring sugars), the diet, light and zero fizzy drinks have much less than the original full sugar versions. Check labels to see how much sugar you are drinking and limit yourself if you feel they are impacting your blood sugar levels.
Caffeine in drinks
Be mindful that some carbonated drinks, coffee and tea contain caffeine. Current guidelines recommend no more than 200mg of caffeine per day to be consumed during pregnancy.
How much caffeine?
The amount of caffeine found in some drinks is as follows:
- one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
- one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
- one mug of tea: 75mg
- one can of cola: 40mg
- one can of energy drink: up to 80mg
Artificial sweeteners in drinks
The majority of No Added Sugar, diet and zero drinks contain artificial sweeteners. Although there is much controversy over artificial sweeteners, they are safe to consume:
All sweeteners in the EU will have undergone a rigorous safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or its predecessor, the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), before they can be used in food and drink. “Large studies looking at people have now provided strong evidence that artificial sweeteners are safe for humans.”As part of the evaluation process, the EFSA sets an acceptable daily intake (ADI), which is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime.You don’t need to keep track of how much sweetener you consume each day, as our eating habits are factored in when specifying where sweeteners can be used.
Avoid adding sugar to drinks as this is pure sugar which your body cannot process as it would normally, even cutting back is still adding excess pure sugar which is difficult for your body to process.
Try sweeteners instead. A range of different sweeteners are available; natural and artificial, some are powder or granulated forms and others are tablets.
Tablet sweeteners are only suitable for adding to drinks. Powdered sweeteners can leave a froth on top of drinks and granulated sweeteners dissolve much the same as beet or cane sugar.
There are some research links at the bottom of the page for more information on artificial sweeteners.
Due to lactose which is the naturally occurring sugar in milk, it can have varied results in different people. It’s advisable to perform a ‘milk test’ – have a glass of milk as a ‘snack’ and then test to see how it effects you after one hour. If you get good results then you are able to tolerate milk well, if you see high blood sugar levels then it is best to avoid milk or swap to a different type of milk.
This table compares 100ml of each type milk. All the milks listed are fresh (chilled) milks, with dairy alternatives being Alpro UNSWEETENED versions of the milk with the exception of the rice milk which is long life. Bear in mind that 4g of carbs is the equivalent to 1 tsp of sugar. [Information taken from Tesco, Waitrose and Grahams websites, correct March 2019]
|milk per 100ml||carbs (g)||protein (g)||fat||calcium (mg)|
|lacto free whole milk||2.6||3.3||3.6||109|
|Graham’s gold top||4.7||3.7||5||134|
A splash of milk in tea or coffee should not impact blood sugar levels, but if you drink very milky tea or coffee, or when drinking larger amounts of milk, then you should include this drink within your meal or snack and incorporate this within your test times i.e. avoid eating and drinking these things before testing your one hour blood sugar level.
Different types of milk suitable for a GD diet:
- Cows Milk – Advisable to perform a ‘milk test’ as mentioned above. Gold top, or full fat/whole milk is best for more stabilised blood sugar levels as fat slows down the absorption of sugars into the body
- Almond milk – low fat, low carb, aids food to breakdown and a source of vitamin E
- Soya Milk – low fat, high protein
- Coconut milk – low fat, source of vitamin B12
- Lacto-free Milk – cows milk with lactose removed
AVOID oat and rice milks which are high in carbs, low in protein and fat AND sweetened versions of dairy milk alternative milks as these contain added sugar!
Ice cream milkshakes
All I can say is walk the other way!
Ice cream milkshakes should come with a huge sugar warning sign on them!
These thick, creamy milkshakes can contain anything from 66g – 90g of total carbs for a medium or large serving!
There is a HUGE 90g of carbs in a large banana flavoured McDonald’s milkshake is the equivalent of 22 ½ tsp of sugar!!
Safer milkshake options
Great news, in the last year we have seen the launch of some much better milkshake alternatives for all you ladies craving milkshakes! Yazoo has launched a no added sugar range in strawberry, banana and toffee flavours, Frijj has launched a ZERO range in chocolate, strawberry and mango & passion fruit flavours and Crusha liquid that you add to milk is now no added sugar too.
The Yazoo and Frijj still contain the lactose (natural sugars from the milk), but if you tolerate milk well, then you should tolerate these milkshakes fine too!
Don’t forget that you can also easily make your own milkshakes using full fat milk, or almond milk and some cocoa or Sweet Freedom choc shot! Try out some of our recipes for smoothies and shakes at the bottom of this page.
Iced fruit smoothies, iced coffees & coolers
Unfortunately these icy, refreshing and fruity drinks can also be packed with sugar. Not such a big surprise when we know that fruit itself and even more so, fruit juice and sweet syrups can spike levels very high, very quickly.
- Starbucks Tall (small) Iced Chai Tea Latte, skimmed milk, 33g total carbs
- Costa Primo (small) Watermelon & Strawberry Cooler, 36g total carbs
- McDonald’s (medium) Strawberry & Banana Iced Fruit Smoothie, 40g total carbs
- McDonald’s (regular) Caramel Iced Frappé, 46g total carbs
- Costa Medio (medium) Mango & Passionfruit Cooler, 57g total carbs
- Costa Massimo (large) full fat Caramel Latte Cooler, 61g total carbs
Lower carb iced/cold drinks to take out, but many still contain high carbs so beware…
WATER! This is our top recommendation!! 0g carbs and no added artificial sweeteners! The best way to flush blood sugar levels through the body and handy for tipping onto a tissue when testing blood sugar levels…win, win!
- McDonald’s Sprite Zero, 0g carbs
- McDonald’s Diet Coke, 0g carbs
- Starbucks Venti Iced Americano, 4g total carbs
- Starbucks Tall Iced Cappuccino, coconut milk, 7g total carbs
- Starbucks Tall Iced Cafe Latte, skimmed milk, 9g total carbs
- Starbucks Grande Iced Cafe Latte, soya milk, 9g total carbs
- Starbucks Tall Cool Lime Refresha, 13g total carbs
- Costa Primo Soya Coffee Cooler, 16g total carbs
- Starbucks Tall skimmed milk frappuccino, no whip, 18g total carbs
- Costa Primo Full Fat Coffee Cooler, 18g total carbs
- Starbucks Tall skimmed milk mocha frappuccino, no whip, 21g total carbs
- Starbucks Tall skimmed milk caramel frappuccino, no whip, 21g total carbs
- Costa Primo Peach Iced Lemonade, 22g total carbs
- Costa Primo Summer Fruit Punch, 23g total carbs
Non alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks
Be wary of these as many contain high amounts of sugar, especially ciders, wines and mocktails! Mocktails etc. contain a lot of fruit juices which are very high in natural sugars.
One non alcoholic drink that a few ladies have had success with is Becks Blue which has 9g carbs per bottle. Due to the carbohydrate amount, ideally it would be best to drink this with or following a high protein meal and test levels after it (like you would food).
Summertime BBQ party drinks:
Why not make up a jug of the following;
- Lemon iced decaf tea
- Iced raspberry leaf tea
- Carbonated water with ice and slices of lemon & lime
- Carbonated water with ice and berries
- Carbonated water with ice, mint and cucumber slices
- Non alcoholic version of ‘Pimms’: 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar, 2 ltrs diet lemonade, lots of ice, mint, slices of orange, lemon, limes, cucumber and strawberries
!!! Hot on the Facebook group at the moment is the limited edition No added sugar Winter Spice Ribena. It does contain sugar, 1.8g total carbs per 250ml serving, but it makes a lovely warming winter drink to snuggle up with. Grab a bottle while you can!
Drinks to avoid, these drinks will raise blood sugar levels very fast:
- Pure or concentrated fruit juices eg. orange juice (OJ), apple juice
- Ready to drink juices eg. Oasis, Ribena
- Diluting squash e.g. full sugar versions of orange squash, Ribena, high-juices
- Full sugar carbonated drinks e.g. Coke/Pepsi, Ginger beer, Irn-Bru, Lilt, Lemonade, Tango
- Sports & energy drinks e.g. Lucozade, isotonic drinks, Red bull, protein shakes/drinks
- Milkshakes e.g. Yopp, Frijj, MacDonalds and Burger King milkshakes
- Smoothies e.g. Innocent smoothies
- Iced coffees and coolers with added syrups
- Hot chocolate e.g. full sugar hot chocolates
- Adding sugar to tea & coffee
Hydration levels, blood sugars and ketones
Being dehydrated can cause higher blood sugar levels and can lead to you producing ketones. For more information on ketones, please read more here.
Research and interesting articles