drink this not that : low carb alternatives to your favorite sweet drinks

If you're on a low carb diet, lowering your carb intake doesn't stop at food.

Drinking your carbs from soda, juices, and other beverages can limit your progress and keep you from feeling your best.

While artificial sweeteners can be a healthy part of your low carb diet, they may influence our hormones and keep your sugar craving going strong.

Here, we'll list common sugary beverages and ways to make healthier swaps to fit your goals.

Sweet Tea

This southern staple comes with a high calorie and sugar count. By choosing a flavored tea and adding fresh lemon or other fruit to infuse, you eliminate the carbs and can still enjoy the refreshing taste of iced tea!

The Original:

Calories: 160 per 30 oz

Carbs: 38 gm

Pro: 0 gm

Fat: 0gm

The Swap: Brew flavored tea of choice (red raspberry, black peach teas work well), add fresh lemon or mint, allow flavors to mingle overnight and serve.

Calories: 0 per 30 oz

Carbs: 0 gm

Pro: 0 gm

Fat: 0gm

Specialty Coffee Drink

While a stop at a special coffee joint may be an occasional treat for some, you want to be aware of the amount of sugar in some of your favorite coffee based drinks. The words mocha and latte can come with high-carb flavorings, try simplifying your coffee order to keep your carb goals.

The Original (White Chocolate Mocha, with 2% milk):

Calories: 420 per 16 oz

Carbs: 64 gm

Pro: 15 gm

Fat: 13 gm

The Swap: Try a decadent latte made with coconut milk and unsweetened flavoring of choice, like chocolate or vanilla. The carbs in this swap come from the coconut milk, which may be pre-sweetened at your coffee shop.

Calories: 140 per 16 oz

Carbs: 12 gm

Pro: 1 gm

Fat: 8 gm


Soda is an addiction for many (1) and is a huge source of carbs. While choosing diet soda may be an obvious choice to lower carb intake, drinking high amounts of artificial sweeteners may not be the best choice (2). While a soda habit may be the hardest to kick, try this swap to reduce your liquid carb intake.

The Original:

Calories: 190 per 16 oz

Carbs: 52 gm

Pro: 0 gm

Fat: 0 gm

The Swap: Try sparkling water with unsweetened flavoring or a fresh lemon and lime squeeze. You may also be able to find artificially sweetened syrups that can be added to carbonated beverages that are a better choice than the original soda.

Calories: 0 per 16 oz (depending on additives chosen)

Carbs: 0 per 16 oz (depending on additives chosen)

Pro: 0 gm

Fat: 0 gm

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are a quick fix for many, and with so many companies adding low-carb options they can be an occasional treat in your low-carb lifestyle. If you are avoiding artificial sweeteners, try this swap.

The Original:

Calories: 168 per 12 oz can

Carbs: 40 gm

Pro: 1 gm

Fat: 0.3 gm

The Swap: Try a more natural route with matcha green tea! Matcha provides a caffeine boost similar to coffee, with less than 10 calories. Be sure to choose a powder without added sugar. You can even add coconut milk and stevia for a sweet caffeinated treat without the carbs of a traditional energy drink.

Calories: 5 per 12 oz (depending on additives chosen)

Carbs: 0 gm (depending on additives chosen)

Pro: 0 gm (depending on additives chosen)

Fat: 0 gm (depending on additives chosen)

Written by Caroline Wiswell, MS RD LDN


(1) Saad, L. (2012). Nearly Half of Americans Drink Soda Daily. Gallup.com. Https://news.gallup.com/poll/156116/Nearly-Half-Americans-Drink-Soda-Daily.aspx [accessed 3 September 2018].

(2) Strawbridge, H. (2012). Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost? Harvard Health Blog. Https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030 [accessed 3 September 2018].

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