10 Low-Sugar Drinks That Are Way Better for You Than Soda
News to no one: If you’re trying to cut back on sugar, soda isn’t your best bet. But once you’re hooked on the stuff, it’s hard to find a suitable replacement that won’t send your blood sugar levels skyrocketing. Fortunately, we put together a list of low-sugar drinks for every taste preference, all of which have 14 grams or less per serving, as compared to the 39 grams of sugar found in a standard 12-ounce can of soda. Read on and find your new fix.
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1. Sparkling Water
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Nutrition Facts: 0 grams of sugar; 0 calories per serving
Be it plain or flavored, sparkling water is a bubbly and refreshing substitute for soda that’s both sugar and calorie-free. Just try not to drink it round the clock, since research—like this 2018 study published in The Korean Journal of Orthodontics—suggests that the higher acidity level of carbonated water can cause damage to tooth enamel over time.
2. Lemon Water
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Nutrition Facts: 1.2 grams of sugar; 11 calories per one lemon, juiced
Sometimes (ahem, most of the time) all your body really needs is water. Still, plain water can get pretty boring after a while. The solution? Add a squeeze of lemon for a vitamin C boost and a zingy taste that will perk you right up. Best of all, research suggests that lemon water can aid digestion, support skin health and might even help prevent kidney stones.
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Nutrition Facts: 14 grams of sugar; 130 calories per 240 ml serving
This fermented milk drink is tangy and sour like yogurt, packed with gut-healthy probiotics and available in a wide variety of palate-pleasing flavors. That said, the plain stuff is safer when it comes to sugar content—so if you opt for a flavored kefir, be sure to read the label carefully and pick one that doesn’t have a ton of added sugar.
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Nutrition Facts: 0 grams of sugar; 2.5 calories per 8 ounce serving
Black, green, white, herbal—no matter what kind you fancy, you can count on a sugar-free beverage when you stick to tea, provided you are preparing it at home and drinking it plain, that is. Yep, it doesn’t matter if you brew it cold or hot, tea is naturally sugar-free and practically calorie-free, too. That said, plainly brewed tea is an acquired taste. Still, you’re better off taking a pass on bottled, store-bought tea and going the homemade route, using sweetener sparingly. (One teaspoon of honey has roughly 5 grams of sugar, while popular brand name teas like Arizona and Snapple can have anywhere from 11 to 24 grams of sugar per serving.)
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Nutrition Facts: 0 grams of sugar, 2.4 calories per 8 ounce serving
Just like plainly brewed tea, black coffee has almost no calories and is naturally sugar-free. (Hence the bitter taste.) Of course, black coffee isn’t for everyone, but knowing that your caffeinated beverage starts off with no sugar whatsoever, it should be easy to monitor how much you add when tailoring it to your taste.
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Nutrition Facts: 11.7 grams of sugar; 149 calories per 8 ounce serving
A full serving of milk is more than some can stomach (particularly if you’re lactose intolerant), but if you have a taste for dairy, a cold glass of milk is an excellent choice. For starters, the stuff is relatively low in sugar, loaded with nutrients and thought to provide some impressive health benefits, too. (You can read more about those here.) Plus, just a splash of whole milk makes a fine sugar substitute for folks who can’t drink their coffee and tea straight-up—and that news goes down easy.
7. Vegetable Juice
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Nutrition Facts: 7 grams of sugar; 50 calories per 240 ml serving
Aside from being a classic base for a Bloody Mary, vegetable juices like V8 are delicious, flavorful and oh-so satisfying to drink on their own. Best of all, this beverage boasts an impressive amount of vitamin C and potassium—just be sure to read the label carefully and pick a brand that doesn’t have added sugar (a total sugar content of less than 8 grams is a good sign), or experiment with making your own at home from a wide variety of veggies.
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Nutrition Facts: 3 grams of sugar; 40 calories per 236.5 ml serving
Sugar is an essential part of this beverage because it’s what the bacteria and yeast feed on during the fermentation process—and if it’s not fermented, it’s not kombucha. As such, you will not find a sugar-free kombucha. That said, you should know that not all kombuchas are created equal: Some brands add sugar after fermentation to give the drink a sweeter taste, but there are plenty of options that have only the scant amounts of sugar that the bacteria and yeast leave behind. Obviously, if you’re trying to keep your sugar intake in check, you’re going to want to look for the latter kind of kombucha. Psst: Health-Ade’s low sugar kombucha (nutrition stats referenced above) is a popular choice that we find particularly tasty.
9. Coconut Water
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Nutrition Facts: 10 grams of sugar; 46 calories per 240 ml serving
Although the sugar content of coconut water might appear relatively high at first glance, it’s worth noting that less than 1 gram of sugar is added to the drink, while the rest is natural sugar that comes straight from the tropical fruit source. (Remember what we said about natural sugar being fair game?) Unlike its milky counterpart, coconut water is not rich and creamy; it has a thin, light consistency, a slightly salty and nutty taste with earthy undertones, and an impressive electrolyte content, to boot.
10. Maple Water
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Nutrition Facts: 4 grams of sugar; 20 calories per 250 ml serving
Pure maple water is a far cry from the syrup you soak your pancakes with. In fact, this refreshing beverage, made from the unprocessed sap of the namesake tree, is 98 percent water. If you’re looking for a light, refreshing beverage with barely perceptible sweetness, maple water fits the bill.