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What Can You Drink On Keto? The News Isn’t All Bad
This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts, including licensed nutritionists, dietitians or medical professionals. The information in the article is based on scientific studies and research.
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When you’re on a diet or simply watching your calories, most restaurant menus don’t give you a lot of choice.
There may be a few “Healthy Options!” complete with appropriate emojis. There may even be a small section of low-calorie, low-fat or low-carb choices on a much larger menu. Or you may be left completely on your own, trying to figure out if the restaurant has anything you can actually order.
The list of keto-friendly drinks isn’t quite that small. It’s not enormous, though, and it probably doesn’t include many of the beverages you’re used to enjoying regularly.
But here’s the good news: there’s a lot more than water on that list. We’ll figure out what you can drink on keto, after a short explanation of why the guidelines can be so tricky.
Keto and Beverages
You probably already know the basic rules that govern keto meal plans. But you may not know why they’re so important.
Normally, the body turns the carbohydrates we eat into glucose (blood sugar), which the body uses as its energy source. If there aren’t enough carbs for the body to burn, however, it enters an unusual metabolic state called ketosis. That allows production of molecules called ketones, which are a suitable replacement energy source.
The body makes ketones by burning its stored fat. And that’s why the ketogenic diet leads to weight loss. As long as you remain in a state of ketosis, your body fat is being burned at an impressive rate.
The balance is tricky, though. As soon as the body gets enough carbs to make glucose, it stops burning fat to produce ketones, you’re “kicked out of ketosis” – and the weight loss stops.
So on keto, your carb intake has to be kept very low. That means no more than 20 or 25 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus dietary fiber) per day, if you’re on a strict low-carb, high-fat keto diet.
Any more than that, and you could fall right out of ketosis. And getting your body back into ketosis can take as long as a week.
Generally speaking, keto guidelines mean eliminating fast food, packaged food, bakery items, most fruits, and starches like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and breakfast cereals from your regular diet.
Oh, and one more thing. You have to eliminate sugar, too.
It’s easy to understand why: sugar is simply the name we use for edible, sweet carbohydrates. That means you’re consuming pure carbs – a lot of them – whenever you put a couple of teaspoonfuls of sugar into your morning coffee.
Those two teaspoons of sugar contain about eight grams of net carbs; that’s nearly half the total amount of carbs you can consume in a day when you’re on a strict keto diet.
Even more startling: if you start your day with a glass of orange juice or a can of Coke, you’re consuming either 29 grams of net carbs (for the OJ) or 40 grams (for the Coke). That’s more than enough to immediately knock many people right out of ketosis.
And OJ and Coke aren’t the only drinks that contain keto-busting amounts of carbs. Unfortunately, most beverages are loaded with sugar – which makes them off-limits on keto.
Let’s get to the list of what you can drink on keto, and what you can’t.
Beverages to Eliminate When You’re on the Keto Diet
It’s always easier to hear bad news first. That gets it out of the way, so you can start to get excited about the good news.
So here’s the bad news about keto and drinks: the list of beverages you should avoid.
- Soft Drinks: You certainly guessed that Coke wasn’t the only bad keto actor in the soda aisle. It’s also not the worst one. Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and RC Cola are all right around 40 net grams of carbs per can, and Sprite, ginger ale and 7-Up are only slightly less carb-heavy. Moving up the carb ladder we find root beer (brands average around 45 grams) and orange sodas (more than 50 grams) – and the worst possible soda for keto dieters, Mountain Dew Code Red, at 77 grams of net carbs.
- Fruit Juice: Sure, juice is healthier for you than soda. But fruit is loaded with fructose (a form of sugar), and so is its juice. Grapefruit juice is slightly lower in carbs than orange juice, but apple, pineapple, cranberry and grape juices are all higher. Naturally, fruit smoothies are generally off-limits as well unless they contain a small amount of berries, which are slightly lower in carbs than most fruits.
- Energy Drinks and Sports Drinks: Nope, sorry. They all contain lots of added sugars, or even worse, unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup. And most range in net carbs from Red Bull’s 26 grams to Rockstar’s 61 grams. Even Gatorade has 16 grams of carbs per serving, almost a full day’s worth of carbohydrates. Add protein powder and electrolytes to keto-friendly drinks instead.
- Milk: Dairy milk doesn’t contain fructose – but it does contain lactose, also known as milk sugar. One small glass of milk won’t kick you out of ketosis, since it contains “only” 12 net carbs. However, that’s well over half the daily carb allowance on a strict keto diet, meaning there’s little room to eat much else. And sorry, 2% and skim milk have just as many carbs as full-fat milk.
- Beer: Yes, that’s here too. Beer is made from grains, which are full of carbs (that’s why you can’t eat bread, either). There are 14 grams of carbs in a Guinness, and 11 in both Bud and Heineken. We do have a little good news about beer, though, in just a bit.
- Diet Drinks: There’s some debate in the keto world over diet sodas and drinks that contain sugar substitutes and boast few or zero carbs and calories. You’d think they should be fine to drink on low-carb diets, for obvious reasons. However, research has shown that they aren’t just unhealthy (leading to increased risk of diabetes and weight gain), their artificial sweeteners may boost cravings for real sugar which could destroy a keto diet. Most experts recommend avoiding zero-calorie, sugar-free, zero carb sodas on keto. If you absolutely, positively can’t go without, you can find a few keto-friendly sodas sweetened with pure stevia or monk fruit sweetener.
And not to pile on, but almost all of the coffee drinks at Starbucks and most mixed drinks contain lots of sugar and/or carbs and are on the keto “naughty” list.
We’ll start the good news even before we get to the next section, though. There are keto-friendly – and delicious – substitutes for many of the drinks that are off-limits.
What You Can Drink on Keto
C’mon, smile. Watching your carb count doesn’t mean you’re stuck drinking nothing but water.
But water’s great when you’re on keto, so let’s start there.
It’s the original low-carb, low-calorie beverage, of course, and hydration is always important. However, following the keto diet doesn’t mean you’re stuck with plain water. Unsweetened sparkling water, seltzer and club soda are just as good, and you can add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice (the only very-low-carb fruit juices) to make your water less “boring.”
One more thing: it isn’t really water, just made with it. But a little-known keto beverage that’s extremely good for you is bone broth.
Coffee and Tea
Both of these morning staples are virtually carb-free, so you can enjoy them any time of the day – as long as you don’t add sugar or artificial sweeteners to them. Stick with zero-carb, keto-friendly sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract (in moderation). All is not lost, though; heavy cream and keto-friendly coffee sweeteners get the green light on the keto diet. Iced tea and coffee are fine, too, as long as you don’t give into temptation and add sugar.
Tea and coffee each contain caffeine, of course, and the stimulant can speed up the metabolism and encourage weight loss. Caffeine content, in order: coffee, black tea, green tea, white tea. Don’t forget the health benefits either; coffee and tea contain antioxidants that are good for overall health and wellness.
Bulletproof coffee, containing MCT oil (to increase ketone production) and butter or ghee (to add healthy fat) is a revered drink on keto. Just be careful; it contains a lot of calories and saturated fat, so sticking to one a day is the best idea. A better substitute is a ready-to-drink keto-friendly coffee drink like Super Coffee which already contains MCT oil, is sweetened with zero-carb monk fruit extract, and comes in a variety of delicious flavors (all using natural flavorings).
You may usually walk right past it in the dairy aisle, but give non-dairy milk a try when you’re on keto. Unsweetened almond milk, macadamia nut milk, coconut milk and flaxseed milk are all low in carbs and great substitutes for dairy milk.
Wine and Low-Carb Beer
We told you that all is not lost, and here’s the proof. Dry wines (both white wine and red wine) and sparkling wine are all fine in moderation on keto, with only about two grams of net carbs per five-ounce glass of wine. A number of light beers are also keto-friendly; check out low-carb beers like Budweiser Select 55 (1.9 carbs), Michelob Ultra (2.6 carbs), Busch Light and Natural Light (3.2 carbs each).
A keto lifestyle doesn’t have to cramp your style. Drinking alcohol is fine as long as you like hard liquor.
We’re pleased to tell you that whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila and brandy all contain no carbs – as do alcoholic drinks made with them, as long as you use soda water or the occasional zero-carb soda as mixers. Don’t slip up, though; alcoholic beverages like vodka and OJ, or vodka and tonic, contain more than 20 grams of sugar and nearly 30 grams of carbs.