I need to replace Diet Coke... but with what?
May 9, 2016 7:45 PM   Subscribe

So my GERD has gotten to the point where I absolutely have to ditch the Diet Coke, but what do I replace it with?

Let me get one thing straight right now... I absolutely hate the taste of artificial sweeteners. I cannot stand the taste of sucralose, at all. People try to sneak it into my food all of the time in a misguided effort to get me to eat less sugar, but I can taste it and it sucks. It's nasty. The only drink I like with Aspartame is Diet Coke, and I can't even explain why. But my GERD has gotten to the point where I can't drink it without a horrible reaction. So it's out.

But I can't really replace it with a sugary drink because I usually drink about 2 liters of Diet Coke a day, and drinking that much of a sugary drink would add, like 400 calories to my diet. I'm not trying to lose weight, but I'm not trying to gain any either...

Anyway Diet Coke and coffee are basically all I drink. Don't tell me to drink more water because I've tried going the water route and all I got for my efforts was heartburn. Yes! water gives me heartburn... awful, horrible heartburn. Even bottled water. You don't have to believe me (I know my last doctor didn't). I know it to be true.

I like unsweetened tea, that's what I replaced my DC with last time when I "quit" it. But lived in the South then and it was ubiquitous there, which is why I started drinking Diet Coke again when I moved out of the South... because it's difficult to find bottled around here (everything's sweetened or diet), and whenever I try to make it at home, it tastes like dirt. I'm not a fan of herbal tea because it also tastes like dirt whenever I make it at home, and -- depending on the brand and flavor -- it gives me heartburn almost as bad as water. If anyone knows how to make unsweetened, iced tea without it tasting like dirt, I'm up to trying your method.

But I'm looking for things to drink that aren't going to add an extra 400+ calories to my diet, so no juices, no smoothies, no sodas -- and for something that's got some taste in it, so for the love of god, no infused water! Not only is that stuff tasteless, it gives me heartburn to boot. And, as mentioned above, nothing that's "sugar free". That stuff is just nasty IMHO.

But there's got to be something out there that I'm missing. Something more than tea, juice, soda, and water. I'm drinking almond milk at the moment, but that's going to get old really fast.
posted by patheral to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Cold brew coffee? Much less acidic than regular brew.

Bonus: cold brew equipment/methods work for making iced tea from loose-leaf tea. How are you making iced tea that it ends up tasting like dirt? Sounds like bad filtration or bad tea.
posted by supercres at 7:50 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I find giant jugs of unsweetened iced tea in with the refrigerated orange juice at my grocery store - I think the brand is pure leaf. It's very tasty.

I also hate sweeteners. I drink a lot of seltzer. La croix is fancy but tasty. I make switchel sometimes - a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar and maplesyrup in a lot of water.

I've found that both Red Rose and Lipton brand make tasty "real tea" concentrate, a la Mio. They have real sugar (and fake stuff) and I bet you'd like it.

Also, 2L of diet soda has lots of caffeine in it. Look up how it compares to whatever your replacement is.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:52 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Club soda and bitters. With a shot of espresso.
posted by vrakatar at 7:56 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I make iced tea the way my mamma taught me. Boil water in a pan, toss a bunch of tea bags in (Lipton). Let them cool for a few hours. Take the tea bags out. Then pour the water in a pitcher over ice and put the pitcher in the 'fridge. Voila! Iced Tea.
posted by patheral at 7:57 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seltzer, maybe. I got a sodastream and it's already paid for itself. You can jazz it up with lemon, lime, cucumber slices, etc.

Try different brands of black tea and different strategies for brewing it. It's surprising how different black tea of different brands tastes. Also, try different concentrations. Try green tea, too.

Also, maybe allow for the possibility that you won't obsessively need a drink in your hand all the time the way you did on Diet Coke. I had a Diet Coke addiction for a few years running (Caffeine Free, actually). And my observation, when I finally got off of it, was that what was really keeping me drinking it was the sodium. It's salty. So I was sort of thirsty all the time, and the solution at hand was more DC. I've been off it now, apart from a treat now and then, for maybe 10 years? I don't really miss it any more. And I don't really "replace" it with anything much, it's just a habit that went away. You might need something as a go-to temporarily but you may find once you aren't in the habit, you won't miss it. Now I find it kind of cloying.
posted by Miko at 7:58 PM on May 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

Came in to suggest cold-brewed ice tea too. Don't knock ice tea if you've only made it one way. Boiling tea can make it bitter, whereas cold-brew ice tea has a really nice and mellow taste to it. Also, definitely try filtered water if your recipe worked elsewhere but isn't working out where you are - sometimes the difference in hardness of water can make a difference. For cold brew teas, even green teas don't end up being that bitter - my favorite thing to do is toss some genmaicha (roasted rice green tea) in a pitcher overnight, strain it out, and drink that.
posted by Conspire at 8:01 PM on May 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm not sure what you mean by tastes like dirt but leaving Lipton Tea bags in the intially-boiling water for a few hours is going to leave you with caffeinated tannin water that is bitter as death. Just for a comparison method, when I make iced tea, I heat 4 cups of water just to a simmer. Turn it off and add 8 Stash black tea bags. I only leave them in for about 3-4 minutes.

If you want store bought unsweetened ice tea, try Tejava. It's excellent.
posted by Beti at 8:03 PM on May 9, 2016 [16 favorites]

I drink cold brew coffee like a fiend. It's completely replaced my hot coffee intake in the summer months, and it's less acidic.

I use this Lifehacker method: A sawed-off two-liter bottle stuffed with an acrylic felt filter, six ounces of ground coffee beans bundled in coffee filters, and 24+ hours of steeping at room temperature. It makes a strong concentrate that lasts a week for me. I dilute with one or two parts water depending on how strong I want it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:04 PM on May 9, 2016

I went from an obessive Diet Coke addict (10+ cans a day) to water. I was one of those "water tastes terrible" people, but I really believe it's the Diet Coke messing with tastebuds that causes that reaction. Try water. It's easy to find, you can do seltzer if you want something different, and it will taste good after an adjustment period post Diet Coke.
posted by cecic at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2016 [9 favorites]

I also have trouble with plain water, but I add lime or lemon juice to my water and it makes it taste better and settled my stomach. It's worth a shot to see if the citrus works for you too!
posted by DoubleLune at 8:19 PM on May 9, 2016

I make iced tea the way my mamma taught me. Boil water in a pan, toss a bunch of tea bags in (Lipton). Let them cool for a few hours. Take the tea bags out. Then pour the water in a pitcher over ice and put the pitcher in the 'fridge. Voila! Iced Tea.

Read the package instructions. Lipton, IMO, shouldn't really brew for more than about 5 minutes. Try removing the bags from the hot tea after 3-5 minutes, allow it to cool, and then try it with ice.
posted by bunderful at 8:21 PM on May 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Y'all, it's not that I think water tastes terrible, it's that it gives me heartburn. It makes my body hurt. I like water, esp with lemon. I've done the water thing before. I'd totally drink water if I didn't immediately feel pain for hours afterwards. This same pain is why I'm giving up the Diet Coke after decades of drinking it.
posted by patheral at 8:21 PM on May 9, 2016

Do you drink water more quickly than your coffee or diet coke? Is it a different temperature? I think only drinking soda and coffee may damage your kidneys after awhile (this is a gut instinct, imnad). Let's circle back to the (most obvious) water solution.
posted by Kalmya at 8:22 PM on May 9, 2016

Aside from changing how you make tea as recommended above, I suggest you switch to higher quality tea, or at least use loose leaf. It's much less acrid and dusty than the sweepings they reserve for teabags and the only extra bit of equipment you need is a mesh strainer. I wouldn't even bother getting a tea infuser as they don't let the leaves breathe.
posted by tavegyl at 8:25 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

To add on to the iced tea suggestions I will say that I quit Diet Coke (RIP, sweet sweet nectar of the Gods) by starting to drink arnold palmers. At home I brew anything from basic Lipton tea bags to higher end loose leaf tea and add Simply Lemonade.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 8:32 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try flavored seltzer. I myself prefer lime seltzer but orange and cherry taste good, too. Flavored seltzer doesn't contain either sugar or artificial sweetener; it's just carbonated water with a bit of fruit juice added for flavor. When I lived in New England, Poland Springs was my brand but in other places other brands have substituted nicely.

Compared to Diet Coke the only drawback of seltzer is "no caffeine" but you can buy caffeine pills at drugstores to deal with that.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:16 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try removing the bags from the hot tea after 3-5 minutes, allow it to cool, and then try it with ice.

Yep. Steep for five minutes and if you like, you can squeeze the teabags out between spoons or against the side of the pan.

Also, toss a pinch of baking soda into the water just before you immerse the teabags. It'll help neutralize the tannins, so it'll be less bitter.

I like green tea (steep for only one or two minutes) with about a tablespoon of honey per quart or even two quarts. That tiny bit of sweetness was just enough to make me keep reaching for it, and you'll need to keep reaching for something to minimize caffeine withdrawal.
posted by whoiam at 9:23 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

you could try some of those "natural" pops, sweetened with Stevia (which I don't like) or Xylitol (which I do)

I drink a decent amount of kombucha tea, but that's gonna be heavily expensive unless you brew it yourself.

I like super-watered-down juice.

You're definitely over-steeping your tea. Herbals can steep long, but not for hours. Black tea: 5-7 minute steep. green, 3-5, less for me, though some people like a "deeper" taste. And don't use boiling water.. use boiled water. I usually let it sit for about 3 minutes after a boil before pouring over tea.

I really like a drink called Licorice Ramzy, which I get from a weird Persian grocery store, but I have seen in asian markets and occasionally Donair places that have little shops as well. It's essentially a strong licorice tea, but you brew it cold and it's very refreshing.

are you drinking water way too fast? I tend to really gulp water because I think I should drink it fast, but I drink coke slower because I enjoy it. water gives me heartburn too, but I think just because I insist on drinking like 16 ounces in 10 seconds for some reason.
posted by euphoria066 at 9:28 PM on May 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

You live not all that far out Seattle. It simply isn't hard to find unsweetened True Leaf or Gold Peak tea around here. We pick it up by the dozen at Fred Meyer (they've been on a 10 for $10 sale lately for the single serving bottles). Gold Peak is better, but they're both decent.
posted by lhauser at 9:36 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I appear to get heartburn when I am eating too many carbs. It doesn't have to be soda, or candy, or bread, just carbs in general. Perhaps this is enhanced by an inexplicable lack of salad in my diet, but I'm still experimenting. It may also have started decreasing frequency due to dialing down my tea intake from 5+ pints per day, and in this way it may be caffeine that is my tummy's bugbear.

What I have done is to start taking generic Ranitidine (Zantac) when it occurs, which is maybe a couple times a week these days. I started taking it for some antihistamine powers that it happens to have, but just having it in my medicine cabinet lets me pop one when I have either of heartburn or hives coming on. Takes effect within an hour, works great, no side effects, consult a doctor.
posted by rhizome at 10:07 PM on May 9, 2016

Coconut water. Some brands are sweeter than others, so you might have to experiment.
posted by invisible ink at 10:16 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really like a drink called Licorice Ramzy, which I get from a weird Persian grocery store, but I have seen in asian markets and occasionally Donair places that have little shops as well. It's essentially a strong licorice tea, but you brew it cold and it's very refreshing.

There's a lot of medical contraindications for licorice if you're ingesting it often or to excess.

Try green tea, too.

You might try mugicha - roasted barley tea. You can drink it hot or cold, and it's dirt cheap from any asian foods store.

I also like genmaicha - mild green tea with toasted puffed rice. It's mild, pleasant even when it's cooled down / oversteeped.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:04 PM on May 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you already have GERD, I wouldn't add two liters of coffee, whether cold or warm. What about kombucha? Fizzy, flavored, no artificial sweeteners, etc.
posted by stillmoving at 11:57 PM on May 9, 2016

What about sparkling mineral water with 1/10th or 1/20th part Diet Coke (just for for flavour) but let to go flat? Or are the fizzies what is causing the problem? Or the caffeine ? Or both? The coffee being ok is throwing me.
posted by taff at 12:06 AM on May 10, 2016

Sparking water with squash/cordial or fresh juice works for me.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 1:31 AM on May 10, 2016

I love cold green tea. Like iced green tea... but it's not a flavor for everyone.

Also Fennel tea delicious (slight licorice flavor) and also amazing for gas, tummy troubles, etc. I LOVE a cup of it in the evening to digest.

Real mint tea - like with mint leaves from the garden - it tastes so much better and fresher than 'infused' water garbage you'd buy at the store.

Why not go to a really fabulous tea store and start some sampling? Look for flavors you like and then make iced or regular-tea from them. White teas are so refreshing in the summer!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:07 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you use one of these and follow the directions (using a tasty loose leaf, either a plain green or white or something flavoured) you should end up with iced tea that doesn't taste like dirt.

I'm supremely lazy and use a pot like the one above and cold-brew the tea by adding it to the filter, adding cold water, and leaving it in the fridge. I find tea brewed that way isn't even a little bitter and is quite flavourful. If you miss the bubbles in diet coke, use more tea leaves than directed and top with club soda directly in the glass.

There are lots of great loose leaf flavours out there, and lots of tea shops will ship samplers to you if you don't live nearby one.
posted by AmandaA at 6:26 AM on May 10, 2016

Caffeine can be a be a major contributor to GERD. Have you tried caffeine-free Diet Coke instead?
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 7:03 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Does bubbly water exacerbate the heartburn the same as plain water? LaCroix is great for flavor, has no sweetener, and scratches the particular itch of drinking bubbles and cracking into cans. You can always add a splash of juice, bitters, or tea to bubbly water for flavor.

Peppermint herbal tea, hot or iced, is gonna feel great on your heartburn. If you need the caffeine there is green tea with mint.

I think Diet Coke is addictive like cigarettes. It tastes like heaven while you're in its grip but if you break the habit and then have a can after a few months it's freakin repulsive. I used to drink it all day and now it tastes like literal poison to me, and I suspect it is (and I'm no purist.)
posted by kapers at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I should add, I'm with you on "infused" waters which all taste kind of wan and off to me, but LaCroix has a crisper flavor that I love, and a ton of variety.
posted by kapers at 8:31 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Actually, y'all, mints are awful for heartburn and GERD. You'd think they weren't but they're one the top triggers -- right up there with tomatoes. I know I can't have anything minty without feeling the burn.

I'll try the cold brewing for iced tea and coffee. I really don't have issues with caffeine (I know this from elimination diets), so iced tea and coffee should be okay. And I'll try some of the other stuff too.

I'm pretty sure it's the carbonation in the Diet Coke that's making my GERD act up, and probably the Aspartame.

posted by patheral at 9:46 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

My gastro suggested to me at my visit last month that I might have to give up coffee if I don't want reflux. Have you seen a second doctor? Water causing heartburn is like, a major red flag to me, and I have had all kinds of wacky diseases of the stomach. Have you tried a run of Prilosec?

I also struggle to drink carbonated anything, so I've been having Stur/Mio/True Lemon added to water.
posted by getawaysticks at 11:07 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've lived in this body for a good 50 years, and I've had heartburn, IBS, acid reflux, etc... for about 30 of those. I've tried a lot of things. I've seen a lot of doctors. I kinda know what my triggers are (and I knew that Diet Coke wasn't good for me when I was drinking it, but that sh--tuff is addictive). All I'm really interested in is alternatives to it that aren't water, sugary sodas, juices, &c. Not how to "cure" what ails me.
posted by patheral at 12:40 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

" I usually drink about 2 liters of Diet Coke a day, and drinking that much of a sugary drink would add, like 400 calories to my diet."

Off by 210%:

2L of Coke would be 6*140 = 840 calories (http://www.coca-colaproductfacts.com/en/coca-cola-products/coca-cola/)
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:46 PM on May 10, 2016

Off by 210%:

2L of Coke would be 6*140 = 840 calories (http://www.coca-colaproductfacts.com/en/coca-cola-products/coca-cola/)

Dyscaculia strikes again...
posted by patheral at 7:46 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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