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Healthy drinks for the holidays and every day


With all of the special occasions, the holidays can add up to unintended weight gain and unhealthy swings in blood sugar.

But that favorite cookie may not be the only culprit. “Drinks are a really sneaky way to add extra calories and sugars,” says Nutrition Manager and Dietitian Rebecca Kirian, MFN, RD, CNSC. Having a drink along with a meal, she points out, can be like getting seconds, “without the healthy proteins and fats.”

Rebecca looked at the label on a friend's bottle of Dr Pepper. “It had 129% of the recommendation for daily added sugars,” she says. Some consider fruit juice to be healthier than soda pop. Still, says Diabetes Education Program Manager Cynthia Gordon, RN, CDCES, CMC: “It's better to eat a fruit than drink a fruit. You get the fiber and the nutrients.”

Sugars should constitute only 10% of your daily calorie intake. Over-consumption of sugars is responsible for a nationwide epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes for adults and children. Current state data shows 1 out of 3 Alaskans is obese. Obesity is a risk factor for contracting the most severe and potentially deadly cases of COVID-19.

Make sweets a sometimes treat

“As a dietitian, I'm never going to tell someone you cannot eat or drink that,” notes Rebecca. “It is all about moderation.” For Cynthia, it is all about portion size, for both drinks and food. You can have anything you want, but to keep your blood sugar level healthy, skip the Big Gulp, big platters, or the sports drinks.

“If you really want that salted caramel latte, have it as an occasional treat,” advises Rebecca. “Don't have it every day. Get a smaller size, or half the pumps of sweetener.”

Of course, warm drinks are soothing during the winter. Cynthia suggests green or herbal tea, or hot water with lemon.

Mix it up

For alcoholic drinks, it's also all about moderation. “Stay in the recommended drink limit: one for women and two for men,” says Rebecca. If you don't drink, enjoy a mocktail—all the fun of cocktails without the alcohol.

A shot of gin, vodka or whiskey mixed with a little simple syrup, flavored carbonated water or kombucha is better for your blood sugar than sweet wines or Irish Cream.

Rebecca makes her own kombucha. She made her own SCOBY, the “starter” or “mother,” which is responsible for the fermentation process. She brews black or green tea, adds sugar, lets it ferment and then bottles it for easy drinkability. Although the kombucha is fed with sugar, the SCOBY consumes it, and the resulting beverage is low in sugar and full of healthy probiotics. Rebecca's favorite flavorings to add are ginger, turmeric and lemon.

One drink you might need more of

Rebecca and Cynthia agree there's just one drink we need to function and thrive. It helps organs like your kidneys do their job in removing wastes from our body. It is what we are made of. It is the best gift you can give your body. Water.

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