What Can I Drink Instead of Soda?

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

Macro photograph of coca-cola bubbles.Image via Wikipedia
By now hopefully you already recognize that drinking pop or soda is wrong. That fountain may flow abundantly and cheap, but it comes at a severe cost down the road. So what options do you have?  There are other ways to get inexpensive, convenient, and delicious drinks in your diet.

Are you thinking diet pop? Not the best choice if you choose one of the major brand labels. Not only will diet brands possibly increase your weight, but these kinds of drinks can and probably will kill you, in the long run. In general, you should try to avoid as many man-made or processed foods as possible, and diet drinks are typically only sweetened by ingredients that corporations can make a killing on, pun intended. There are alternative diet sodas, however, and some of these might be to your liking.  First, let me introduce you to a rising brand:

zevia root beer

Zevia. This is a soda with, as of this writing, six flavors. The cola flavor is pretty great, too. All flavors are sweetened with stevia and erythritol. It is made with other "natural" ingredients, and is sold in most healthy grocery stores such as Fresh and Natural Foods or Whole Foods. Would I drink it? Yes, and I wouldn't mind seeing it as popular as major diet brands are now. It's leaps and bounds more healthy for you than any diet drinks Coca-Cola or Pepsi produces. That being said, it's not the end-all, be-all of healthy things to quench your thirst. Ingredients like erythritol*, while being found in nature as Zevia states on their website, are usually synthetically produced and are a corn by-product. I did confirm via email that the erythritol is based on corn, and this corn is convential, non-GMO. It seems slightly misleading to claim that something is all natural when it actually uses a processed ingredient.  Of course, you should also realize that the word "natural" means absolutely nothing to food manufacturers, but that's beside the point. My conclusion on Zevia is this: It's much healthier than regular soda AND diet soda, and it tastes great, so it's a good choice - but there are still healthier options you could pick from.

Stevia rebaudiana foliageImage via Wikipedia
If you're still looking for an alternative, sparkling drink, consider making your own sodas on the fly. Using plain sparkling water, try adding 5-6 drops of Sweetleaf Liquid Stevia. This comes in a variety of flavors - and if you look for other brands of liquid stevia, you can find even more. In short, stevia is a natural herb that can effectively replace sugar, and you only need to use tiny amounts because it is far sweeter than sugar. You should really read up on the history of this herb, as it is another interesting tale of corporate dominance in America. And be careful if you decide to use a branded product such as Truvia or PureVia in your diet. These are new products based on stevia, but with yet more ingredients added, notably erythritol and "natural flavors" in each. As I mentioned, erythritol can be naturally found in fruits, but I believe in most cases it is man-made. Natural flavors, again, can mean anything. Do the research, and once you've picked out a good version of stevia to use, you'll find that flavoring your own sparkling water is almost as easy and convenient as any can of pop.

Since you're now thinking about sparkling water -- don't forget that the body simply needs water every day to begin with. You can go all out with this liquid stevia and add it to plain water as well. Put it on ice and you've got a nice, refreshing, needed drink.

Orange juice.Image via Wikipedia
Fruit Juice is a delicious option, but if you can wean yourself from this choice, I would recommend doing so. There are many things wrong with fruit juices to which the benefits do not measure up. You can get some good nutrients from juices - Vitamin C from orange juice... anti-oxidants from acai juice... that sort of thing. However, I don't think these benefits will carry over into commercially-produced juices AND you're missing out on the all-important fiber that whole fruits produce. The fiber offsets the sugar naturally. Commerical juices are, almost entirely, pasteurized and mostly sold in plastic bottles. The pasteurization will get rid of many of the positive nutrients, if they existed in the first place. (Sometimes the fruit won't even have good nutrients when they are produced conventially, with pesticides, early picking, and concentration/rehydration.) When pasteurized, of course, the juice is heated to high temperatures and then immediately sealed into their bottles. Heating plastic, or even pouring hot liquids into plastics, is just not a good idea. You can go about making your own juice, of course, and then you have greater control over the source. You can then be sure you're getting an organic fruit that contains the nutrients you want. However, you usually cannot get around the missing fiber. Without this fiber, you're basically dumping high levels of fructose into your system which is just as bad as consuming any large amount of sugar. The best way you to consume fruit juice is when you make it yourself using a machine such as the Vita-mix, and even then you should not store the juice for long before drinking it, otherwise you lose the nutrients - and that is the whole reason for doing it this way. So, this is not an easy way to have something fun and delicious to drink, so it becomes difficult to do daily. But do try it! You can make all sorts of delicious, blended fruit juices.


Rooibos tea. This is a great way to add what could almost be considered a "water plus" type drink to your diet. You can brew it like any tea, but keep in mind that rooibos isn't really tea to begin with. It naturally lacks the caffeine that black and green teas have, at least to some degree, and it has more anti-oxidants than even green tea does. It's unsweetened, but usually tastes delicious and is available in who-knows-how-many flavors. I've purchased tea from Teavana (good variety), EnjoyingTea (recommended), and other stores. I've even imported it from Ukraine when on vacation there. It's even packaged and awaits you at any major grocery store. The convenience level of tea is pretty high, and is usually earth-friendly as well. I highly recommend it.

I haven't had a chance to try making kefir soda on my own yet, but have been able to try it when recently attending the Weston A Price Nourshing Traditions conference. It's not something that can be conveniently found just anywhere, but as I understand you could make it yourself fairly easily. It's naturally effervescent without carbonation, and has a tangy sweetness to it. It's also full of good probiotics, so it'll help your digestion, too.

Kombucha culture fermenting in a jar

Then there's kombucha, which is something I'm very familiar with. This can now be found under several small brand names, most notably G.T. Dave's, in many health food stores, and sometimes even medium-sized grocery chains. So the convenience level is higher than kefir soda. It has the same probiotic health benefits that kefir soda does, but on the other hand, I think the taste of kombucha probably takes more getting used to. It has very little sugar in it, because the living organisms that create the final product consume the added sugar in the mix. While I definitely recommend drinking kombucha, it also definitely takes getting used to, so it's not a solution for everyone. Making it at home is fairly easy, but is also visually a little gross. You'll need to obtain a starter called a SCOBY (it is not a mushroom), but once you have that it's hard to stop making more and more kombucha.

Another reader has asked me about natural solutions for electrolyte drinks. My research is still "out" on this one, because I have yet to find a convenient solution for it. The healthiest and most natural option is coconut water, but it's expensive, not easy to find, and some might not love the taste. Smart Water seems to be a very abundant choice, although personally I never condone plastic bottles. If you have to, so be it. I've read that making your own electrolyte solution is very simple, so as long as you plan ahead, you're good. Google has a lot of DIY recipes, but they all seem to have the following in common: salt, baking soda (excellent for pH levels), and light sweetener of some kind like maple syrup. Perhaps it's not glamorous, but it's certainly better for you than high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted every Wednesday at either Kellythekitchenkop.com or Cheeseslave.com

* An edit, and a closing thought on erythritol: Please research for yourself the "dangers of erythritol." I am just not 100% convinced that it's healthy because it is processed, usually from corn.

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Peg,  December 7, 2009 at 8:51 PM  

I found your site through Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Food Renegade. I love all of your posts that I have read so far. I am in total agreement with it all. I have been making my own kombucha tea for about a year now, and I love it. I found out how to make it at the Food Renegade. I got my sister making it too, and she now has 2 friends at work who have gotten interested. Slowly the word about real food, healthy food, nourishing traditions etc. is spreading around. Thanks for all of your great info too.

psychiclunch,  December 7, 2009 at 9:28 PM  

Thanks so much, Peg! I hold a personal hope that this kind of information is spreading rapidly, and that we can all break this hold that processed food has on our whole nation. Sometimes it's pretty difficult to stay hopeful when I see grocery carts piled high with the junk, but when I visit FoodRenegade, KitchenKop, Cheeseslave, and all the others - AND when someone like you comes to say 'hi,' it just bounces me right back to the top. Thank you ~~~

P.S. You caught me right in the middle of upgrading the comments section! Hope it's easy to figure out :)

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About Psychic Lunch

Psychic Lunch was founded in 2009 by a nerd and father who wants people to be healthy. The information on this site is researched, but should be considered opinion; that is, you should always do your own research and come to your own conclusions about what is and what is not healthy. Products endorsed on this site are actually believed in and used by the author.


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