The hottest months of the year are here, and finding some thirst-quenching drink options can be tough for those of us who need to count carbs and respect the blood sugar effect of anything we swallow.

Seriously, I just went through this in Indy when dealing with a string of days above 90 degrees and needing to make sure I had enough hydration options while doing some work outdoors. One gets tired of plain water, and diet soda is not so thirst-quenching in extreme heat. So we’re always on the lookout for true “D-friendly” drinks, that won’t impact our blood sugars but also aren’t filled loads of artificial chemicals and sweeteners that are suspected of negative effects. So what’s refreshing and good for us at the same time, we ask?

Fortunately, we have some new options in the Diabetes Community!

Amy swears by the new Sparkling ICE drink, appearing in supermarkets around the country. It’s carbonated flavored water with zero carbohydrates and zero calories — and comes in intense but very pleasant fruit flavors. We plan a review of that one soon.

Meanwhile, a new sports drink that’s captured my attention recently is called Nutri-Twist Wow Water. Created by Michigan startup Twisted Concepts about two years ago, it was the original brainchild of the Andoni family in the suburbs of Detroit, dealing with a type 1 diagnosis in their young son.

They were frustrated with the diabetes drink options, so they invented their own, establishing a Michigan-based business that’s expanding throughout the Midwest. We think their story fits right in to our Small But Mighty series!

Wow Water first caught my eye in Spring 2012, while visiting a JDRF conference in the Metro Detroit area when I met the man behind the drink, Peter Andoni. He’s actually known to most folks locally as the man behind the popular restaurant franchise Shield’s Pizza, a landmark in the Detroit area during the past century; he and his brother bought the restaurant in the 90s.

In 2009, Peter’s youngest son Alex was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 7. The boy’s diagnosis wasn’t the first for their family, as Peter’s wife and high school sweetheart Lisa was also diagnosed with type 1 at the same age as a kid in the late 70s. While the family was familiar with diabetes, Alex’s diagnosis led them to start working toward a healthier lifestyle, and they looked to food products that were lower carb and better overall, such as veggies and fruits with lower sugar.

The Andonis, with Lisa and Peter book-ending their three kids (Alex on the right).

Being an active kid, Alex kept continued playing a number of sports post-diagnosis, including soccer, hockey, and lacrosse. So the Andoni family started examining the many sports drinks and juices that were being brought to these sporting events. What they found was troubling, if not surprising: most of these drinks contained artificial colors and added chemicals and sugar, not to mention the much-debated high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that’s caused such a backlash. Though these sports drinks were everywhere, Alex’s family discouraged him from drinking them. That’s when they decided to create their own.

Naturally they assumed that a big national beverage company would be all over the idea for a new healthy hydration option for kids and people with diabetes…. right? Wrong.

Peter says he turned to the local JDRF Southeast Michigan chapter about finding a big beverage company partner, but the their reply was that companies weren’t interested because they wouldn’t see a big enough market for a drink like that. The family found that kind of schocking and depressing, but that set them off on an independent mission to make their own healthy drink — one without any chemicals,  HFCS or even artificial sweeteners.

What they came up with is a low-sugar and gluten-free drink that has only 11 grams of carbs per bottle (about half that of regular Gatorade); a trio of vitamins B, C and D; plus electrolytes and no artificial colors, flavors or caffeine. Each bottle has about 40 to 45 calories, depending on the flavor. What Wow Water has in it is Stevia, a more natural plant-based sweetener that’s quickly replacing many of the artificial sweeteners out there.

They’ve developed six flavors, but have only released three so far — strawberry kiwi, tropical citrus, and berry fusion — because of the expense of unveiling new flavors. They plan to release the fourth new yet-to-be-announced flavor by October, and then a new one every 12 months.

Their water is available all over Michigan, since that’s their base-of-operations, but you can also find Wow Water in parts of Indiana and Wisconsin, and before long it will be distributed in Illinois and Ohio. Not to mention on, where you can get some of this summer beverage wherever you might live. Oh, and 5% of their profits go to the JDRF!

Now, don’t get confused by the name — it’s not water. This got me at first, because as I prepared to try it my train of thought was: This is misleading, because I have to dose for it, so it can’t be water. Very true.

I like to think of this as a D-version of Gatorade, one that actually does the job energizing me, quenches my thirst, and makes me want to drink more fluids — all without packing me full of unwanted carbs.

On a recent trip to the Detroit area, I picked up a four-pack of Wow Water and brought it home to Indiana. It contained two of the flavors, tropical citrus and strawberry kiwi. Honestly, I really like this drink! And it’s got a fun bottle design that will appeal to kids; it doesn’t look like some super-health drink your mom made you bring.

I drank a couple after working outdoors recently on a hot 80-degree day, and found it hit the spot and hardly impacted my blood sugars. Of course, I was already low and dropping because of the lawnmower-pushing and tree limb dragging, but the Wow Water helped stabilize my BGs a bit.

When I drank the strawberry kiwi citrus version without bolusing for the 11 grams of carb, I did see a slight boost in blood sugars that you might expect during the hours following. That is, I started off just above 100 mg/dL and went up to about 160 mg/dL within three hours, before leveling off and starting to drop back down. With the tropic citrus flavor and a little bolus to compensate, I saw a pretty steady stream without much more than a 20-point BG effect. You can imagine what little effect it might have if you’re drinking this while working outside or playing sports.

So, yes: I endorse this “healthy water” drink, even if it’s not really a water but a drink you have to take into account when balancing your insulin and summer activity.

And it’s always great to hear the personal D-story behind products like this. I like how Peter serves on the JDRF’s board of directors and that his family-owned business, the Shield’s Pizza that I grew up going to before moving to Indy, hosts a golf outing each year and donates proceeds to the JDRF. They’ve also donated food and drinks to volunteers locally and nationally. And it’s impressive how Alex, now 12, has become a part of the JDRF Children’s Congress that traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate in the name of diabetes.

To me, this D-family’s story has the Wow factor that makes me want to keep a few bottles of their drink on hand for these hotter summer months!

One more tip re: water and healthy drinks for us PWDs…

There’s also a new additive in town from Arizona-based SweetLeaf, called Sweet Drops, which comes in little 1.5-ounce squeeze-drop bottles that you add into your water or other drinks to snazz them up. They’re made with organic Stevia extract and plant-based flavors. I received a sampling of the cola, peach mango and strawberry kiwi flavors and was… mostly unimpressed. Sure, they flavored my water, and thanks to natural sweetener had no impact on my blood sugars as they have zero calories or carbs. But the flavors weren’t anything to write home about. It took almost half the little bottle to make my one water bottle actually taste different, and I found that the cola version tasted like watered-down soda pop and made me even thirstier than I had been before. There was a slight aftertaste with them all that I just couldn’t place, so I just can’t recommend these as water enhancers… However, I did squeeze a few drops of the peach mango flavor into my plain vanilla Greek yogurt, and really enjoyed that little boost of flavor in my morning meal.

Opinions may vary on all of these, of course, as there’s no accounting for taste.  But it sure is nice to have various drink flavor choices to choose from without a impending BG disaster.

So, tell us D-Friends: What are you drinking during these hotter summer months?