Surprise: Lots of drinks have carbs you’ve never thought about. These keto-approved liquids will keep you on track.
What You Need to Know About the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is all about quick weight loss. How does it do that? “By depleting carbohydrate stores and forcing the body to use ketones [compounds that are produced from fat versus sugar] for energy, so you burn additional fat,” says Edwina Clark, R.D. Proof: One study found that the keto diet could actually burn 10 times more fat than other plans.
But the keto diet doesn’t come without sacrifice—specifically in the carb category. When on it, 75 percent of your daily calories should come from fat, 20 percent from protein, and just 5 percent from carbohydrates (that’s less than 50g per day), says Clark. For comparison’s sake, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories come from carbs—so you’re looking it a pretty significant carb depletion.
With such a strict macronutrient breakdown, what you eat matters—and so does what you drink. Why? A lot of drinks contain carbs and sugars, and it’s not just the obvious culprits. “Carbs are stored with water, so when they’re depleted from your diet, there’s a loss of total body water,” says Clark. “Plus, ketosis increases nitrogen production and urine output, which can lead to dehydration if not carefully managed.”
Obviously, hydration is always crucial, but trying to figure out what drinks qualify as low-carb can be tough. Here’s your go-to guide for keto drinks that are more interesting than glass after glass (after glass) of water.
The Best Keto Drinks
This should come as no surprise: “Water is always the best choice for hydration!” says Clark. Plus, it has no calories (and no carbs), so you can drink it all day long without a second thought. Flavored waters and LaCroix and other seltzers are okay by keto standards, too. Just look for no-calorie options that aren’t flavored with added sugars.
Keto Hot Drinks
Green tea, black tea, and herbal teas are all calorie-free and a good way to break up the monotony of plain water all day. Adding heavy cream can help you reach your fat and protein quota for the day.
Keto Coffee Drinks
Good news: You don’t have to give up your coffee addiction on keto. Black coffee is your best bet to get your caffeine fix without any carbs. But adding full-fat milk (instead of skim milk) can help you meet the hefty fat intake required on keto. “Milk contains 12 grams of carbs per cup,” says Clark, so make sure to watch how much you pour. And bulletproof coffee—with added butter, which is obviously high in fat calories—is also keto-approved. “Bulletproof coffee contains medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is a medium-chain fat hydrolyzed from longer chain ones,” says Clark, making it easily digestible. “Studies on the benefits of MCTs are mixed, but some research suggests that they may enhance thermogenesis and fat burning.”
Keto Starbucks Drinks
It’s possible to order keto-friendly drinks at Starbucks! Obviously, your best bet is plain ol’ black coffee, but an Americano has just 3 calories from carbs, and cream adds calories from both fat and protein. An espresso also has no carbs. Using full-fat milk, almond, or coconut milk in black coffee or cold brews can also contribute to keto’s fat and protein requirements without adding too many carbs.
Unsweetened Almond/Nut Milk
Nondairy nut milks are good keto options because they can help you meet your protein and fat requirements without piling on the carbs, says Clark. Avoid sweetened options, which will have more carbs, and stick to full-fat choices.
Keto Alcohol Drinks
Hard alcohols, such as scotch, whiskey, bourbon, tequila, rum, vodka, gin, brandy, and cognac, are better options during a ketogenic diet (or otherwise) because they’re all low-calorie alcoholic drinks, says Clark. But remember, “alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it increases water losses and can lead to dehydration,” she says. “Plus, alcohol is metabolized as fat and can increase triglyceride levels and fat deposition.” It’s best to steer clear of beer, which is high in carbs, and wine, which is high in sugars.
Keto Mixed Drinks
Most mixers, like sodas or juices, are going to be full of carbs and sugar. Your best option if you’re going to drink is to stick to straight alcohol, or choose a mixer like seltzer or flavored seltzer, which won’t add calories or extraneous sugars.
Keto Diet Drinks
Diet drinks like Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and similar zero-calorie sodas may sound perfect for the keto diet, and they are better than regular sodas, but they do come with problems. “They contain artificial sweeteners that can have a laxative effect when consumed in excess, and may boost sweet cravings,” says Clark.
Keto Sugar-Free Energy Drinks
Keto followers can have sugar-free energy drinks like Red Bull Sugarfree (3 grams of carbs), Rockstar Sugar Free (zero carbs), or Monster Zero Ultra (zero sugar and zero calories). “They are a low-carb choice, but not necessarily a healthy one,” says Clark. “They’re packed with artificial flavors, sweeteners, and caffeine, which can have adverse effects for some people.”