Ask LH: What Are Some Tasty, Healthy Alternatives To Soft Drink?

Ask LH: What Are Some Tasty, Healthy Alternatives To Soft Drink?

I’ve decided it’s finally time to get rid of my twice-a-day soft drink habit, but the problem is, I really like soft drink. What are the healthy alternatives that can still match my cravings?


Mr Pibb

Photo remixed with Vitaly Korovin/Shutterstock.

Dear Mr Pibb,

Cutting soft drink out of your daily diet is a great idea, but finding a great replacement makes dropping the habit a lot easier to do. We all know soft drink isn’t good for you for a number of reasons, including the fact too much sugar can lead to liver toxicity, soft drink decays teeth and studies indicate that even diet soft drink can increase your risk of a heart attack. Thankfully, a few alternatives to soft drink will satisfy your cravings without affecting your health.

To find the best alternative for you, let’s break it down by trying to match what you crave most in a can of soft drink.

Soft Drink Alternatives For The Sweet Tooth

taken a close look at sugar’s effect on your mind and body
  • Iced Tea: The nice thing about a cold glass of unsweetened iced tea is that you can sweeten it to your liking with sugar. If your sweet tooth is truly tingling for a lot of sugar, a glass of sweet tea will scratch the itch without totalling trashing your teeth.
  • Fruit juice mixed with sparkling water: Fruit juices like apple and orange have more calories per millilitre than soft drink, but tossing a splash of 100 per cent juice into some sparkling water keeps the calorie count low and still maintains a perky sweetness. It’s also carbonated, so it closely matches the consistency of soft drink.
  • Make your own soft drink: Food blog Gilt Taste has 11 tasty recipes for making your own soft drink if you have your own carbonation machine at home. If you don’t, you can make your own out of a few odd parts from around the house. This obviously requires a lot more work than grabbing a can out of the fridge, but the fact your recipes won’t be filled with excessive amounts of sugar means they’re a healthier treat.

Image: Evan Bench.

Soft Drink Alternatives For Caffeine Lovers

If it’s the caffeine that attracts you to soft drink, there’s some great alternatives as well. As with sugar, we’ve looked at how caffeine affects your brain and while it’s not particularly nasty for you, it’s best consumed in moderation.

  • Coffee: It might be the most obvious choice, but coffee usually has significantly more caffeine in it than a can of soft drink, so a single small cup will curb your craving for a caffeine boost. If you don’t want a warm cup of coffee, you can make your own cold brew at home easily. Just go easy on the sugar.
  • Black or Green Tea: Black and green tea typically have more caffeine than soft drink and both are great alternatives as they come packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Both can be served hot or cold to match your preference. If you’re looking to add a little sweetness but don’t want to use sugar, honey is a good alternative.

Image: Timothy Boyd.


Soft Drink Alternatives For A Cool Drink On A Hot Day

A hot day is begging for a cool glass of liquid, but soft drink never really feels like it quenches your thirst very well. These options will do just that.

  • Lemonade: While there’s no scientific proof that lemonade is the absolute perfect summer drink (there should be!), it certainly quenches your thirst on hot day better than a can of soda can. Better still, you can improve on the already great taste of lemonade by adding ginger.
  • Arnold Palmer: Speaking of summer, nothing says a bright sunny day like a round of golf and a cold Arnold Palmer-style drink in your hand. The standard Arnold Palmer is simply 1/2 iced tea and 1/2 lemonade, but we’re particular fond of commenter GringatchoDemonto’s variation: 2/3 unsweetened black tea, 1/6 limeade, and 1/6 orange juice. This mix provides a caffeinated, sweet and refreshing supplement to a can of boring old soft drink.
  • Water: Yes, there’s the, “well, duh” point about the benefit of drinking water on a hot day, but it’s much better at hydrating you than a can of soft drink because there’s no sodium in it. For an always ice cold glass of water you can store water bottles in the fridge to make them just as easy to grab as a can of soft drink.
  • Image: Eun Byeol.

    In the end, it’s all about deciding what it is about soft drink you love and supplementing the craving with a drink that both satisfies that craving and is healthier. These are just a few suggestions, but plenty of alternatives to soft drink are out there. Speaking from experience, it doesn’t take long to cut the soft drink habit. Get rid of the soft drink in the fridge and find another drink you enjoy to supplement it. Within a couple weeks you’ll forget soft drink even exists.



    PS. Have you quit drinking soda by substituting it with something else? What’s your favourite alternative?

    Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


    • I went through the same thing a while ago – trying to cut down the huge amount of softdrink that I was drinking, and water just didn’t cut it.
      I ended up getting a soda siphon (the things that you see in old slapstick comedy squirting water at someone) and making my own carbonated water for the fizz. A soda siphon keeps it’s fizz unlike a Soda Stream which starts de-fizzing immediately. Soda siphons are expensive (~$100), so I went with bottled fizzy water for a while to be sure that the replacement would cut it.

      So the fizz is covered, but the sweetness which I still wanted, I got Stevia lemon flavoured drops from the health food shop. It’s natural sweetener and it’s supposed to have a lemon taste (other flavours are available) but I can’t taste the lemon – just the sweetness (but maybe it’s just the brand of Stevia that I got). Even without the lemon taste, it’s got the sweetness that I miss from softdrink..
      End result – a much healthier drink than softdrink (still carbonated so still slightly acidic; and some people disagree on Stevia being a healthy option) while still having the fizz and sweetness and a little bit of taste. It works for me, although I still have the occasional ‘Zero’ softdrink.

      • Hi Kai,
        I’m a reporter from Nine News doing a story on the health problems associated with drinking too many sugary beverages. We’d love to interview you on camera about the challenge of ditching soft drinks. If you are interested and have 5 minutes today please email [email protected]
        Thanks – Emily, Nine News

        • Nine news lady. I’m pretty sure a comment made TWO YEARS AGO is a bit of a stretch for a news article, don’t ya think??

          Though what can I expect from the packer family….

    • im attempting to do this now. problem for me is that I have a V in the morning to help wake me up and a coke at lunch time to get me through the rest of the day. I have started drinking heaps of water in between, which I am hoping to slowly replace the coke at lunch with just water, and eventually (when my daughter is sleeping better than she is, 8 months old) I will be able to drop the V in the morning.

      What has helped me through the whole bad sleep thing with babies is exercise. it even seems to help me on the weekends with the cravings, by replacing consumption with exercise i’m hoping it will help to eventually kick the habit and make it become a “sometimes” drink like wine as well as setting a good example for my daughter.

    • Many years ago I used to drink 2-3L of Coke per DAY. Every day. Needless to say that had some negative health effects. I could never drink “diet” versions because, for me, the sweetner used has an adverse effect in my system.

      So for a couple years I went off the Coke, lost 25kg, drank mostly water etc… But I still missed greatly the mouth-feel and unique taste only Coke has.

      Then along came the “Zero” range from Coca-Cola, and it was happy times again. Whatever it is they use in Zero that’s different from Diet, it works for me, the taste between Coke Zero and Sprite Zero compared to the full-sugar version is identical. With neglible calories.

      So I still enjoy my nice cold fizzy drink of Coke, without the sugar.

    • Agree with Stevia as a good way to go. It is a herb so you can even grow it yourself it you like. I use it all the time now instead of sugar/honey/dried fruit/ etc. Initially the taste is slightly different but now it is just normal for me

    • Get the non bitter variant of stevia (for example , Nunaturals brand in the states, think in Australia the non bitter one is like .. pure or true something arather!) – add that and some lemon or lime juice (can get in bottles at supermarket) to soda or mineral water and boom. sugar free, caffeine free softdrink that helps to clean your teeth!

    • I find soda water is nice but an acquired taste. There’s mineral water – which tastes like water, but with bubbles – but I don’t like that as much as soda personally. So I’m either drinking soda straight, or mixing it with either juice or sometimes the BIckford’s cordials (Ginger Beer ftw).

    • I used to drink 2 -3 cans of Coke a day.

      My weight was piling on. I was 78kg with a height of 1.7m.

      I worked in a project management group where the qualification required is a PMP – Project Management Professional.

      My partner said she thought it meant Project Management Paunch because everyone was so fat.

      I cut out Coke cold turkey about 6 years ago and I have never drunk it again.

      For some strange reason lemonade on planes and ginger ale with fish and chips is “allowed” but apart from those two exceptions I never drink any cool drink.

      I only drink mainly water with a rare orange juice or cordial. I never drank alcohol so that wasn’t an issue.

      I used to get lots of headaches – probably caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Now I never get headaches.

      I used to get excruciating leg cramps in bed. Now I never get leg cramps.

      I used to have very bad reflux. My dentist told me that the combination of Coke and stomach acid reflux was dissolving my back teeth. Now I very rarely get reflux.

      I used to get very painful bare patches on my tongue. Now I only get them if I inadvertently eat a fruit salad with kiwi fruit in it. The meat tenderiser enzymes in kiwis breaks down the surface of my tongue.

      My original reason for dropping Coke was to lose weight and it worked. I am now 64kg.

      I am a Coke addict and I will be for life. When I hear the shhshh sound of a can being opened I get a tingle down my spine.

      However, the weight loss and other health benefits were so dramatic that I will never drink Coke or any other cool drink again.

      I on

    • Just stop it! Kick it all together! Drink water, sparkling water, anything with no sugar. If you want to lead a healthy lifestyle it does NOT include sugary drinks.

      • This is the most helpful advice I’ve ever read. What a great guy you are, Bob Williams.

        Sparkling water or soda water with a splash of cordial or fruit tea has worked for me. Oriental Tea House in Melbourne do a tea called Peach Melba which always hits the spot on a hot day. Drop of soda water in and you’ve forgotten what Coke tastes like.

    • Fizzy water all the way! I replaced a two-Coke a day habit with it. And I don’t mean the sweet ones marked as “5% fruit juice”. I mean, plain fizzy water with nothing else, or with a lemon essence (unsweetened, no calories) added.

      If you’re cheap, the Coles brand 1.25L container of Sparkling Water has been 75 cents for months. If you’re not cheap and like a lemony flavour. If you’re less cheap, there’s another brand in a pale blue bottle which has plain and lemon flavours of it. I like the lemon, but usually stick with the Coles fizzy water because it’s about half the price, since I go through about $10 of it a week.

      And if money’s no object, Perrier is nice. The reason why is going to sound strange I’ll warn you. Why: because it has smaller bubbles that give it an interesting consistency as you’re drinking it, which is different than the others that have larger, more soft drink like, bubbles. Seriously, if you drink fizzy water but have never tried Perrier, try it. You’ll notice the difference, slightly in taste, but mostly in the feel of it in your mouth.

    • I had a can of proper coke for the fist time a few months last night and my teeth and mouth felt furry afterwards! yes furry….like weird

      That was a weird sensation, not nice and it was quite unpalatable as well…

    • I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which dramatically changed my consumption habits for food and drink, so sugar is now a strict no-no if I want to try and reverse my possible future dependence on insulin just to stay alive.
      In particular, I was an Iced Coffee junkie for so long, more than soda & soft-drink, however “Fruit Juice” is just as bad with the same sugar content (10g per 100g). I would usually dilute FJ with water, but this just means you are still taking in more than you really should on average anyway.
      One substitute I’ve found success with is to have Natural Mineral Water or Sparkling Soda Water with a tiny bit of cordial (sugar-free in my case), which gives you the desired fizz. It ultimately doesn’t taste much like your favourite soft-drink per se, but at least it’s many times better for you.
      btw, it’s amazing how many things out there contain sugar, which makes it difficult to find substitutes as needed, but persistence will pay off.

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