Even if you don't have a 'cola addiction' too much high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners like aspartame aren't good for you. You can read the headlines "OK in moderation", but because High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is in so many foods and drinks, it's very hard to practice actual 'moderation', because it keeps popping up in so many unexpected places. hibiscus powderEliminating or cutting down on soda for any reason is a good move for better health, weight loss, better digestion, and so much more. But then, why is it still so popular?
Tasty & Fun:
Denying the facts won't work: soda & cola is tasty and fun to drink. The bubbles make it more enjoyable, and the range of flavors and brands can suit anyone's tastes. So, if you want to cut down on cola you need to avoid feeling deprived. Having to 'miss out' and dealing with disappointment every day isn't the path to success or even contentment. It makes it too easy to go back to less healthy drink options. Replacing soda with water or tea might not be enough for success if they make you feel deprived.
Avoid the fruit juice pitfall
Lots of people look to fruit juice hoping it's the better option for weight loss or blood sugar help. Maybe replacing orange soda with orange juice would solve the issue? After all, the ads for OJ tell you about how healthy it is at every turn. But... a typical 8 ounce glass of orange juice has 22 grams of sugar while 8 ounces of several different sodas have about 26 grams. You might as well be serving soda for breakfast, at the amount of sugar that's in OJ. Apple juice has 24 grams. High fructose corn syrup, cane juice and sugar all cause inflammation when eaten excessively, and they feed bad bacteria in the digestive system. It doesn't matter if it's "Fortified with vitamin c & d", it's still way too sweet and will sabotage your efforts if you skip soda & replace it with bottled or carton fruit juice.
Flavor power to the rescue:
So what are you supposed to do? Learn how to mix up something else to drink that's fast, flavorful and better for you. There is no single solution, because everyone's tastes are different, but it's recipes to the rescue here. When you choose the aspects you want (fizz + flavors + caffeine or not, etc.) you can concoct a drink or drinks that taste as good as, or better than soda so you won't feel like you're being deprived. Something delicious will make it easy to switch to a healthier refreshment.
Fizz source- Club soda, lightly flavored carbonated water, and just plain old 'carbonated water' will give you the fizz and bubbles you crave for texture. All you need to do is figure out how to avoid diluting it too much when you add more flavor... with some handy tips.
Fresh squeeze: You don't need 100% juice when you're using real fresh (or frozen) fruits. All fruit juices on store shelves have to be pasteurized for safety when they're packaged. This means the juice is heated to kill bacteria, but this also kills the flavor! Heat treated juices are much less tasty & vibrant than raw fresh juice you squeeze yourself, so you need much more of it (or treated HFCS juice) to get the flavor. Example: Fresh lime juice tastes much different than bottled.
Add-ins: When you make your own drinks you can use 'impossible' add-ins like citrus zest & drops of fresh pressed ginger root that bottlers never can. These give an intense boost of flavor that you can control. They're also strong enough that you won't dilute the bubbly base water too much.
Tea Time... but not really. Do you like traditional tea like Green, Black, or Earl Gray? That's great, and will make quitting soda easier... but what if you don't? There are plenty of flavors in tea bags that don't really taste like tea on shelves these days. Apple-cinnamon, hibiscus-mango, and wild-raspberry are all in tea bags for hot or cold use, but they don't have the 'traditional tea taste' to them so even tea-haters can enjoy these new flavors. All it takes is a trip down the grocery store aisle to see which 'non-tea-tasting' flavors are on offer.
Fullness-factor: Soda can help you feel full between meals, so some people rely on it to replace a snack. This doesn't have to be the case when you add chia seeds to your drink. Chia seeds are tiny, flavorless seeds. They don't affect the taste of the beverage, but they're so high in 2 kinds of fiber (soluble & insoluble) that when you drink them, you feel full. They're as easy to use as 'simply stir', so anyone can mix up a chia drink. Once soaked in the beverage of choice, they form 'chia gel', tiny beads of gelatin-textured drops. It's similar to "tiny-boba" from the popular fun beverage "boba-tea" or 'bubble tea' (though that's made with tapioca-starch). Not only does adding chia stop hunger, it also adds nutrition like calcium, omega-3 healthy oils, b-vitamins and much more.
A touch of sweet: You don't need artificial sweeteners to have a sweeter drink. Now that stevia is available in many brands & formats (leaf powder, squeeze-drops, etc) it's always ready to use. It doesn't make people hungrier like aspartame can. Monk fruit is also becoming more common, and xylitol, derived from birch tree bark is yet another way to sweeten. Another option is raw local honey. Raw honey can help stop allergies & contains many nutrients including minerals, phytonutrients, beneficial enzymes, and antioxidants. Adding it to a cold drink won't cancel its benefits. Do go lightly on it though, as it's still a real sweetener on the glycemic index.
Time to combine:
With these elements in mind, it's time to combine them to experiment in making soda-substitute drinks that are just as delicious, but much healthier. Making a very strong brew of wild raspberry tea, then adding a splash of it to club soda with a squeeze of stevia drops will give you a bubbly raspberry beverage. Pressing pomegranate arils and adding the juice to ice water then using fresh lime zest/juice & chia seeds will make a tangy drink that can replace a snack and help you feel full. Pressing ginger juice can really turn this drink into a wake-up-call. Honey, lime & chia in ice water makes the traditional beverage from ancient times "Chia Fresca". You don't need some powdered mix for strawberry lemonade when you've got lemon zest, fresh or frozen berries and some stevia powder. These are only a few examples; of course, by combining the principals above you can get countless more ideas.