Juice in Cocktails: An MDR Labs Anecdote

When we discuss sugar free drinks here at the MDR Labs, juice in cocktails or mixed drinks is an obvious challenge. There are many classic and modern drinks that call for juice, either for coloring or for flavors.

For those of us that lead the low carb lifestyle, the challenges would almost seem insurmountable. However, there is a newer trend in juices… the diet juice.

For instance, Ocean Spray features several Light and Diet versions of their juices. My local Giant Eagle also has a few options, but I honestly prefer the Ocean Spray varieties.

The main difference between Light and Diet are really the carb counts and how they are sweetened. This needs a little more explanation though. A quick YouTube search yielded a pretty informative How It’s Made video from Discovery that does a very good job of explaining the basics of how apple juice is made. However, they left out a key piece of information. I have it from internal sources of an unnamed company that many times juices are supplemented with the sugars of apples. If you think about it, this totally makes sense. In order to get rid of batch to batch variations, juice manufacturers must supplement their juice to get the same flavor profile. Nobody wants to be surprised by how sweet their juice will be, so if the particular apple crop is a little less sweet than before, they add natural apple sugar to the required amount, or even remove some. This does not mean that the juice is any less natural, as it is sweetened with actual apple sugars.

That being said, when it comes to light and diet versions, the lighter versions tend to be sweetened less, or basically just watered down and the diet versions still a little watered down, but instead of being supplemented with natural sugars are supplemented with Splenda. It may seem silly, but this is important as juice is a healthy part of our diet, yet many juices contain more sugar than regular soda! Don’t just take my word for it, Mott’s Apple Juice contains 29 gram of carb per 8 oz versus an equivalent 8 oz volume of Coca Cola, which is 27 gram of carb!

This is why it is important to discuss with your doctor or dietician specific needs when it comes to carb intake and low carb life. So please keep the following comparison in mind when making juice substitutions:

Ocean Spray Cran-Grape (carb per serving of 8 ounces):

  • Regular – 31 grams
  • Light – 13 grams
  • Diet – 2 grams

Massively different, right?

In my looking, more and more companies are starting to use diet and light juices. I highly recommend looking for them when it is required for a drink and I’ll specifically mention what I use in future posts. Not all of them are as reduced as the Ocean Spray Cran-Grape, but some are equivalent, and usually most of them are under 10g carb per serving.

The per serving is also a key piece of information. When a cocktail recipe calls for an amount of juice, it could be only an ounce. For instance, if a drink calls for one ounce of grapefruit juice and a serving of light grapefruit juice is 10g carb/8 ounces, then the amount of juice for that particular drink would be 1.25 grams of carb, which is so negligible that it may as well not be counted. In fact, that is only enough carb to raise my blood sugar by 3.75 mg/dL! I wouldn’t even bolus insulin for that amount. However, this would not hold true for a screwdriver, which contains 6 ounces of juice. The Tropicana Trop 50 still has 13 gram per serving of 8 ounces, so the final carb tally of that drink is 9.75 grams. Not bad compared to regular orange juice (26g), but not low enough by far to be called no carb.

MDR Labs stresses healthy eating, drinking, and imbibing, so please consult with a professional regarding dietary intake and what might be healthy options for your life. MDR Labs would still like to say that there are options out there, if you do want a delicious cocktail with juice, though.


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