Healthy Soft drink Substitutes

by Emma Chow

When I was a kid, my dad would stock the fridge with several types of soft drink, his diabetes be damned. He wasn’t much of a beer or wine drinker, so every meal would be accompanied by a glass of something fizzy, whether it was a simple dinner at home or an eight course banquet with the extended family. Consequently I thought chugging the stuff was pretty normal, until I saw what coke can do for your motor oil covered garage floor, let alone your teeth.

When it comes down to it, soft drink is effervescent, heavily sugared and coloured water. I’ve become one of those strict mums who will only allow my children a little fancy fizz on special occasions. But even as a grown up, sometimes I get a soft drink craving myself, particularly on really hot days or most of last year during the pregnancy of our newest addition.

Here are some soft drink substitutes you can try to satisfy your cravings and which might even become your family’s new favourite. No soda stream required.

  1. Mineral water, soda water or tonic water. If it’s just carbonation that you crave, any one of these bubbly waters might do the job. Add a slice of lemon.
  2. As above, with a splash of syrup. So if fizzy water isn’t doing it for you, then maybe a little extra sweetness is needed. While there are many commercial sweet syrups on the market, these are expensive, and full of colours and additives. It’s ridiculously easy to make your own. If I’ve got a little over-ripe fruit or cut fruit no longer suited for fresh eating, not suitable for cake or crumble making and there isn’t enough for jam, I’ll make a quick fruit syrup with it. My favourite is roughly a half cup of chopped pineapple, a third cup of sugar and half a cup of water. Place in small pot, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve and cool in the fridge. Once cool, pour into a jar. It keeps in the fridge for a couple weeks. The best part about making your own fruit flavoured syrup is that you can adjust the strength of your drink. I have a weird thing for sodas on the weak side. At my eldest’s 4th birthday, we had little milk bottles full of different home-made syrups and lots of bottles of soda water; everyone had fun making their own mix.
  3. Fruit juice and soda or mineral water. If the above is sounding a little labour intensive, a combination of fruit juice and soda water is as good as the real thing. It’s such a good idea that they even bottle and sell that these days.
  4. Fruit and herb infused water. Adding chopped fresh fruit, herbs and even flowers can make an attractive and delicately delicious drink. There are countless recipes and combinations. But a few good ones are: grated ginger, sprigs of thyme and slices of lemon; chunks of watermelon or pineapple with bruised mint leaves; sliced cucumber, mint and orange; bruised summer berries, mint and a few sprigs of lavender. It looks like sangria, but without the alcohol or sugar. You could try this with fizzy water also.
  5. Stevia leaves with fruit and herb infused water. You may know stevia as a sugar substitute. A pair of lovely ladies in my partner’s family enjoys a few bruised leaves from their stevia plant in water or soda water with pieces of fruit as a soft drink replacement. The leaves provide their subtle sweetness.
  6. Old fashioned lemonade. Make simple syrup with 2 cups water to 1 cup sugar. Juice enough lemons to get about 1 cup of juice. Combine lemon juice with 4 cups of water. Add your syrup to taste. Chill. Garnish with lemon slices and ice cubes. Syrup will keep in a jar in the fridge for months so long as you don’t contaminate the syrup by putting in a dirty spoon or such.
  7. Kombucha. This could be a little intense for the kids, so make this one an adults only option. Kombucha is a fizzy fermented sweet black tea made with a ‘SCOBY’ or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It is thought to have probiotic benefits. There are now many commercially prepared kombucha drinks available at organic and health food stores. You can prepare your own, but as with any fermented food it is recommended that persons be extra cautious and clean because unsafe bacteria can grow in the process.
  8. Lacto-fermented sodas. Like kombucha, these sodas have been made with a fermented starter, like a simpler version of the starter for sourdough bread. If you’ve ever seen or tried Calpis soda from Japan, you’ll know what I’m talking about. While there are many claims about the health benefits of food and drink fermented with lactic acid, most of these sodas and recipes still require a significant amount of sugar, so consume occasionally.
  9. Iced tea. A pitcher of strong black tea sweetened with a little of the simple syrup recipe from above and garnished with lemon slices and mint leaves is a perfect summer drink. Even simple chilled green tea is very refreshing.
  10. Water. You might think that you need a soft drink, when in fact you’re just really thirsty. Go down a couple of glasses of cold water. You might feel better.

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