I need a new dru-- er, beverage. One that won't make me sick.
July 29, 2013 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I really enjoy Coke. (Yes, the soda.) I need a sugar-free or lower-sugar alternative beverage to drink at work. It's for dental reasons, not diet. Any ideas?

I have seen this question, and a couple others, but figured I'd ask specifically as a replacement for Coke.

What I really like about Coke is that first sip-- cold, crisp, refreshing. (I'm such a marketing pawn.) The rest of the can is good, but not as good. I figured that means it's not really worth the cavities. I have considered the tiny cans, or repackaging and decarbonating larger bottles.

I don't like Diet Coke, but I haven't really tried Splenda sodas (Coke Zero?). That's not really an ideal substitute, though, is it?

Not a huge seltzer/club soda fan. Is it an acquired taste? (Haven't really tried mineral water.)

I don't really like tea, though I like the idea of it-- the ritual, the variety, the accessories, the occasional snobbiness, etc etc. Also, it's the middle of summer in Philadelphia and my work AC is on the fritz. Despite being from the south (hence "Coke" not "soda"), I'm not really a fan of iced tea. With both hot and cold, it tastes like slightly weird water to me. Sugar and dairy don't help. Also an acquired taste?

I'm not a huge coffee person, though again, I like the idea of the ritual/accessories of pour-over. I feel like I could become a coffee person. (I've tried to get into coffee in various preparations more than once.) Though that seems like trading one bad-for-my-teeth thing for another.

I like juice, though it's a bit of a pain to bring it in, and the good stuff is kind of expensive. Plus, still usually sugary. And I'd like something with caffeine, or at least a caffeine option.

All this is mostly for my office. I already drink a lot of water there. I have access to unlimited 200-degree water and a fridge, and I can bring my (actually pretty good) coffee grinder to work easily enough. Anything that requires too much prep and I'm sure I'll just go back to soda.

Thanks!
posted by supercres to Food & Drink (55 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Crystal Light has some energy products that are non-sugar and can be squirted directly into water. Perhaps that will give you your caffeine fix while keeping you away from the heavy-duty sugar bomb of cola?
posted by xingcat at 7:50 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Give Coke Zero a try. It is surprisingly good. It isn't made with Splenda.
posted by gjc at 7:52 AM on July 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


My fiance nixed pop and aspertame a few months ago. He now drinks Perrier with a bit of lemon juice and half a teaspoon of sugar. He thinks it is wonderful and swears by it. Fizzy and refreshing, easy to have around and make on the fly, no gross chemicals...

For me it is the squeezy Crystal Light liquid water flavor thingies that works. I use a lot less than I'm "supposed" to I think, but it gets the job done. When I want to fizz it up I mix it with some of my fiance's Perrier.


One final point, 2 years ago my fiance was a Pepsi drinker. He wanted to cut calories out of his diet so I suggested it come off the sugary pop and at least try the sugar free pepsi. He was grumpy but he tried it. He was fully switched in a month's time and now finds the sugar Pepsi disgustingly sweet. My point is that it doesn't take long to make the change.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:52 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Despite the fact that you don't like it, Diet Coke is still your best bet. I deliberately switched one summer in college and I remember that it took me 4 months to develop a taste for Diet Coke. It tasted thin and had a wierd metallic aftertaste at first. Now I can't drink anything else.
posted by killdevil at 7:52 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cherry Coke Zero is actually a decent alternative. I also drink a mix of 75% sparkling water (we drink Pellagrino because it's the best tasting carbonated water we've tried) and 25% juice and it's really refreshing and not too sugary.
posted by Kimberly at 7:53 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think Coke Zero is pretty good, far better than any other diet soda, but it tastes weird out of a can. Maybe it's just me, but I always pour it into a cup.

I like seltzer with a splash of fruit juice. Much less sugar than drinking it straight, and cheaper too. You could try white grape, cranberry, lemon, pomegranate, whatever you like.
posted by inertia at 7:54 AM on July 29, 2013


Coke Zero is indeed a good substitute, if the dozen empty cans on my desk are any indication. The cans are way way better than the plastic bottles for the first fresh carbonated sip. I know people now who actually prefer it for non-caloric reasons. Try it, but don't blame me if you get addicted. My name's cgg, and I have a coke zero problem.
posted by cgg at 7:54 AM on July 29, 2013


That's a good point - there's a definite difference in taste of soda (to me) depending on whether it's from a can, a 2 liter bottle, or a 16 ounce (for me). I would try the various substitutes in all forms just in case.
posted by lemniskate at 7:56 AM on July 29, 2013


I drink an embarrassing amount of Coke Zero. I came to it after a journey through the world of Diet Coke, so I can't speak to whether it tastes "more like" Coke or not. But it's way better than Diet Coke.
posted by Sara C. at 7:57 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coke Zero is made with sucralose (Splenda), as is Pepsi Max. They're both definitely more tasty than Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, but if you're sensitive to artificial sweeteners you'll notice the difference.

I hate diet sodas but when I quit smoking I also quit drinking sugared drinks. The only diet soda I like is Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi, although the flavored variants of Coke Zero (cherry & vanilla) are pretty good.

There are also stevia sweetened sodas like Zevia. I have found them to be gross (and expensive!), but everyone's tastes are different.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:58 AM on July 29, 2013


I've found that I really enjoy water with lemon - not the wedge that they stick on the side at restaurants, but a few slices that let the lemony-ness through.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:59 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite beverage is sparkling water with a splash of fancy cocktail bitters. No caffeine, though.
posted by KathrynT at 8:00 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cold brew iced coffee. You make a sort of coffee syrup that you can keep in the fridge in cool bottles. There are various sugarless flavors you can add too. I use the Toddy system that I found at a thrift shop but there are directions on how to do it in various places on the internet. I usually do 1/3 syrup, 1/3 crushed ice/ 1/3 milk & flavored sugar free syrup to taste.
I also drink San Peligrino mineral water for my carbonation fix and very cold water with home grown spearmint.
The coffee syrup also makes great gifts. I put it in one of those beer bottles with porcelain caps and tie a bow on it.
posted by BoscosMom at 8:02 AM on July 29, 2013


If a lower amount of sugar is your goal, how about seltzer with a splash of either bitters or flavored syrup (store-bought or homemade)? A few drops of Angostura bitters can make a sort of mildly sweet, spicy/gingery drink. A bit of lime juice and some raspberry syrup in cold seltzer is also really refreshing.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:03 AM on July 29, 2013


Where do you live? If you're in New England or maybe some other adjacent parts of the northeast US, I recommend you give flavored seltzer a try. It's sugar-free, calorie-free, and sweetener free, so there's no fake sweetener taste.

Only problem is it's a highly regional product and it seems to get harder and harder to find the further you get from Worcester, Massachusetts. Also some flavors can be weird and gross (e.g. Pomegranate Sangria, which tastes like grape magic markers, or Triple Berry, which is redolent of blueberry yogurt). Single fruit flavors are generally a safe bet.

Second choice: plain seltzer with a dash of lemon or lime or fruit juice.

I also make my own flavored seltzer with a Soda Stream and a few drops per liter of flavor extracts made for baking (peppermint and orange are my faves - I don't like the Soda Stream branded flavorings).
posted by mskyle at 8:05 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Coke Zero is made with aspartame and acesulfame-K (ace-k), not splenda. It's a good replacement for full-bore Coca-Cola if you can't develop a taste for Diet Coke, which I do love more than I ought to.

I also love Zevia Sodas - the Ginger Ale and Cream Soda is great. Sweetened with Stevia.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:05 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you are doing this for dental reasons, no soda is going to be a good replacement, even diet. Some diet sodas are worse for your teeth than regular. The sugar isn't really the problem so much as the acid in the soda that destroys tooth enamel. Root beer is the least acidic soda, though.

See here and here.

Water is really the best thing you can drink. Tea and coffee aren't so bad. Someone did a huge pH test on about a million different beverages and posted the results but I can't find the website.
posted by Polychrome at 8:06 AM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Coke Zero is mighty tasty.

But, stevia is now the perfered alternative sweetener. Good for teeth, no calories. The stevia sweetened sodas are expensive, but they are available and damn tasty.

I drink iced tea sweetened with stevia. Pop is just not great for you, it isn't. But if you must, try Coke Zero over ice and see if you can abide it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:14 AM on July 29, 2013


I find Fresca to the only non-sugar soda that doesn't taste like a diet soda. No caffeine, sadly.

I've also found, oddly, as someone who definitely prefers Coke to Pepsi, that I prefer Diet Pepsi to Diet Coke.
posted by General Malaise at 8:17 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Diet Coke with Splenda tasted so much like real Coke to me that it was a cruel blow to discover Splenda makes my stomach hurt (this was from drinking lots of them over the course of a day.)
posted by tomboko at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2013


Coke Zero is definitely better than Diet Coke.

Diet Canada Dry ginger ale is quite good, and widely available, even in those awesome little 8 oz cans.

Diet Dr. Pepper is pretty good. Avoid Diet 7 Up and Sprite.

Fresca is diet. All Fresca. The original is grapefruit flavor; they also have black cherry and peach now. Kind of too sweet, but good when you're in the mood.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2013


Make your own low(er) sugar, low(er) calorie, natural beverage treat: one part orange juice to two parts plain seltzer. If you need to adjust your taste buds, start with half to half, lower the percentage of fruit juice every few days.
posted by RRgal at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2013


Seconding water with lemon. I agree with tafetta, darling! that it needs more than just a small wedge to have real flavour.

I used to drink pretty much only Diet Coke and coffee but I decided to give up Diet Coke because any kind of carbonated drink makes me feel bloated and gross. I stuck to just plain water (and coffee) for two or three weeks, and then started adding lemon to my water. I think the plain water period helped me adjust to plain flavours, so the lemon water now seems refreshing and exciting. (If I drank water with lemon during my Diet Coke phase, it seemed kind of awful.)
posted by gursky at 8:20 AM on July 29, 2013


Hi Ball. Oh my god. So good.
posted by BibiRose at 8:20 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason Diet Coke is so bad tasting (ok, different-tasting) is because the formula is totally different from regular Coca Cola. It's not supposed to taste like regular coke. Try Coke Zero-- the idea behind Coke Zero is that, unlike Diet Coke, it uses the same flavor formula as regular coke, just diet.
posted by deanc at 8:23 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Came in to say Hi Ball, so seconding. Boy howdy, it's a nice replacement when you need cold plus fizzy minus sugar.
posted by mochapickle at 8:26 AM on July 29, 2013


Also I am a sucker for flavored seltzer.
posted by mochapickle at 8:26 AM on July 29, 2013


Yes, what deanc just said. I abhor Diet Coke, but Coke Zero on ice with a wedge of lemon = mmmmm.
posted by Salamander at 8:27 AM on July 29, 2013


Cherry Coke Zero is absolutely delicious, but my favorite diet soda is Diet Mountain Dew. Oh my, the goodness and the caffeine and the lack of sugar....*drools*
posted by BrianJ at 8:35 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite beverage is sparkling water with a splash of fancy cocktail bitters. No caffeine, though.

On that note, I'd suggest a South African version: rock shandy. It's half lemonade, half club soda and a generous helping of Angostura bitters to taste.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:43 AM on July 29, 2013


What Polychrome said. The sugar in soda isn't as bad for your teeth as the carbonation. Now, knowing this hasn't really altered my behavior any, but if you're considering switching up drinks specifically because of your teeth, then you ought to know this.

I don't really like tea, though I like the idea of it-- the ritual, the variety, the accessories, the occasional snobbiness, etc etc. Also, it's the middle of summer in Philadelphia and my work AC is on the fritz. Despite being from the south (hence "Coke" not "soda"), I'm not really a fan of iced tea. With both hot and cold, it tastes like slightly weird water to me. Sugar and dairy don't help. Also an acquired taste?

You might like iced herbal tea. Iced mint tea is wonderful, for instance, and it doesn't have the 'tea taste' you dislike.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:44 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Came in to second iced coffee. Soooooooooo refreshing, no sugar, low acidity, pretty ok for your teeth all in all.

Here is how you do it: put coffee grounds in a big tupperware box, add cold water, leave in the fridge overnight or for 12 hours.

Strain through a filter or muslin. Bottle (you can use a washed-out coke bottle!) and keep for up to 1 month.

To serve, pour an espresso size portion into a glass, add crushed ice and whole milk to taste (I like mine more milky than strong). No sugar needed. It is smooth, cold, and freaking delicious.
posted by greenish at 8:47 AM on July 29, 2013


Actually, I had lots of problems with diet sodas and my teeth. Think 5 cavities in 1 visit.

I drink iced coffee - I do NOT like cold-brewed coffee - so I make it hot, add my splenda and milk, and cool it overnight. Yes, it requires planning ahead. It is worth it.

I also drink water + cucumber. Feels very spa-like.

And plain seltzer water. It is an acquired taste, yes.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 8:51 AM on July 29, 2013


Diet sodas are hardly better for your teeth; the acid is worse than sugar. Sugar doesn't hurt your teeth by itself; it's the bacteria that feeds on it. Brushing your teeth quickly after food and drink really limits their damage. The acid, though, starts on the enamel at the first sip.
posted by spaltavian at 8:51 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just cut down on my Coke consumption myself and wanted to nth sparkling water. I drink plain Perrier (the flavored versions are weird) and San Pellegrino both, but plain club soda works just as well and is cheaper.

Consider also the magical world of shrubs and drinking vinegars.
posted by koucha at 8:58 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it's dental reasons I was told by my dentist that sugary drinks are not too bad as long as you aren't sipping on them all day. If you chug a Coke once or twice a day then you're OK but if you have one next do you all day then you could have a dental issue.
posted by zzazazz at 9:02 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


>What I really like about Coke is that first sip-- cold, crisp, refreshing.

Ice-cold non-alcoholic beer is like this. Not sure what brands are availble in your area.
posted by canoehead at 9:22 AM on July 29, 2013




I drink Club Soda. Mmmm.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:27 AM on July 29, 2013


As others have said, It's the acid that is the culprit, not the sugar. Your best bet is to use a straw, or swig water inbetween sips to clear the acid from the enamel each time.

I have been on diet soda (I find the full strength stuff too sugary tasting to have except as a treat) for years and it hasn't made a marked difference on cavities; but drinking through a straw has.

I prefer ice-tea, and I make it myself in big batches because I find commercial ice teas to have a similar level of acidity. I use a couple herbal bags (like strawberry, or cherry) mixed with green or black, to give it more taste.

But the best diet soda I've ever had is A&W Diet Cream Soda. Otherwise they all taste a little odd, I find.
posted by Dimes at 9:47 AM on July 29, 2013


Thanks, everyone. As soon as someone mentioned that it's the acid in addition to the sugar, I remembered that I had heard that already. So anything sparkling and I might as well stick with the Coke.

I'm not having a cavity problem; had one after several years of no dentist visits. But I had a bad enough experience with this filling to want to avoid them in the future.

Still, all the sugar can't be a good thing. I'm going to give tea another try, especially since it's so easy with a hot water dispenser 20 feet away.

Thanks again!
posted by supercres at 9:58 AM on July 29, 2013


Kombucha (fermented tea) is fizzy, crisp, low in sugar, and very refreshing—if it's your thing. (I like to say: it's like there's a party in your mouth, and everyone's invited... it's kinda wild.) If you want the convenience of buying it bottled in the store, it's much more expensive than Coke. If you are willing make it at home, it's radically cheap—and it's easy to make.

If you're interested, get a bottle from your local hippy grocery store and try it.
posted by BrashTech at 9:59 AM on July 29, 2013


If you want something sweet in your drink that is actually GOOD for your teeth, get some Xylitol and use it as a sweetener. Get some gum that's sweetened with pure Xylitol, too. (You may have to go to a health store to find a brand that doesn't use other sweeteners in combination with Xylitol.)

If you are drinking large quantities of sweet drinks each day, take it easy with Xylitol at first, using just a few teaspoons a day to avoid digestive issues. You can increase the amounts as you go.

But if you have a dog, keep it well away from the Xylitol, the same way you keep it away from chocolate and raisins, because that can make it very sick or even kill it.
posted by maudlin at 10:49 AM on July 29, 2013


There are three brand-name diet colas made with Splenda (sucralose):
  • Diet Coke with Splenda
  • Pepsi One
  • Diet Rite
All the other ones have aspartame, often with acesulfame potassium. Aspartame is a migraine trigger for my wife, so I have become something of an expert on this. :-)

Of the non-aspartame-containing products, Pepsi One is easily the one that tastes best. If you are looking for a diet soda that does not contain aspartame, I recommend it. Coke Zero and Pepsi Max also have good flavor (better than their other diet formulations), but contain aspartame.

Don't underestimate the amount of damage the sugar can do. While, yes, colas and many soft drinks are acidic, that acid is out of your mouth fairly quickly. The sugar, on the other hand, is sticky and will cling to your mouth including your teeth.
posted by kindall at 11:06 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love flavored seltzer, especially grapefruit. And, I love iced coffee - either cold-brewed or strong brewed so that the ice doesn't dilute the drink.

If you don't want to go cold turkey on soda, you can use a straw to drink. I use a straw to keep the majority of the soda from bathing my teeth. It doesn't solve the problem, but it does mitigate the damage.
posted by quince at 2:27 PM on July 29, 2013


"The sugar in soda isn't as bad for your teeth as the carbonation"

Wait, what? The carbonation is responsible for the acidic pH of sodas? Can anyone point me to some links here?

Edit: I ask this because I was hoping to buy a home carbonation setup so that I could make my own sparkling juices and tonics.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:13 PM on July 29, 2013


Two iced "teas" to recommend - neither actually contain tea, so they may or may not match your iced tea experiences.

1) Peppermint (http://www.celestialseasonings.com/products/herbal-teas/peppermint)
2) Lemon grass and/or ginger (like so)

Both are easy to make at home - make with boiling water, steep for 5 minutes, remove teabags, cool until safe to put in fridge. I find both very refreshing and don't need to add sugar, often add ice cubes though. Obviously, this is no guarentee for you. Just something else to try, with an added caffeine-free benefit.
posted by maryr at 3:28 PM on July 29, 2013


Club soda, mixed with juice. If you make your own soda with a SodaStream, you can overcarbonate it like I think Coke does with their products. And then put it into one of those airtight metal water bottles, and it really does have that same "first drink" effect as Coke does. You can adjust the mix to get the amount of sweetness and taste that you want. Adding a few drops of bitters adds more taste without sugar, and there are a lot of flavors to choose from. It's very easy to make, though probably won't do much for your teeth.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:39 PM on July 29, 2013


San Pellegrino + Lime

or

Get a Soda Stream and make carbonated water to drink.
posted by wcfields at 6:24 PM on July 29, 2013


While Coke will always be my first preference, I'll just chime in that Diet Dr Pepper is my personal favorite diet drink. It has no 'diet' drink aftertaste and has that same refreshing feel when you drink it in the morning.
posted by Hatashran at 8:00 PM on July 29, 2013


I love Coke Zero.

Diet root beer is always a good bet - it doesn't have that "diet" taste at all.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:59 PM on July 29, 2013


Wait, what? The carbonation is responsible for the acidic pH of sodas? Can anyone point me to some links here?

Water with dissolved carbon dioxide produces carbonic acid. The pH of carbonated water is between 3 and 4. Soda water has an alkaline salt added to it to reduce the acidity. Soft drinks have citric and phosphoric acids. Lots of fruit juice is also very acidic. More info here.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:37 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can sip drinks through a straw to minimise the amount of contact with your teeth.
posted by trialex at 9:39 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really like the stevia-sweetened Zevia, but I may be a weirdo.

Also, the more expensive price means I drink less of it.
posted by the jam at 9:42 PM on July 29, 2013


The reason Diet Coke is so bad tasting (ok, different-tasting) is because the formula is totally different from regular Coca Cola. It's not supposed to taste like regular coke. Try Coke Zero-- the idea behind Coke Zero is that, unlike Diet Coke, it uses the same flavor formula as regular coke, just diet.

I seem to remember that when Diet Coke was introduced, people liked it so much that Coca Cola thought they had gold on their hands and that flavor profile was used when they designed New Coke.

As for the acid thing, regular carbonated water apparently doesn't affect teeth. pH is only one factor in what makes acids and bases erode materials.
posted by gjc at 6:25 PM on August 1, 2013


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