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Healthy alternative to soda
Family Health

Finding Healthy Alternatives to Soda

Soda is full of sugar and additives, making it a less-than-ideal choice for you and your family. Here's what you need to know about the health risks of soda, as well as some tips to help you choose a delicious soda alternative that will keep you refreshed all year long.

What's in My Soda?

A 12-fluid-ounce can of a name brand cola contains 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. That adds up to nearly 10 teaspoons of added sugar, which means a single can exceeds the recommended daily allowance.

The ingredients of this classic drink include carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, and caffeine. Based on this list, it's clear that the sugar contained in name brand cola is 100 percent from added sugars (high-fructose corn syrup). Regularly consuming such a high-sugar product may increase your risk for weight gain and chronic illness -- not to mention that, except for water and "natural flavors," the ingredients in soda are usually artificial. While these additives are generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many people prefer to avoid them, as research hasn't yet determined their long-term effects on our bodies.

Popular Soda Alternative Options

Luckily, there are plenty of calorie-free options that can quench your thirst without the health concerns that soda brings. Here are a few great options:

  • Sparkling or mineral water. This water comes from a spring and naturally contains minerals and carbonation.
  • Seltzer water. This is plain water that has been artificially carbonated and often flavored. It's sugar-free, but it's been found to wear away tooth enamel due to its acidity, especially if it's flavored.
  • Club soda. This is water that's been artificially carbonated, with mineral-like ingredients added to improve flavor.

Be careful not to confuse these drinks with tonic water, a bitter beverage that contains about 130 calories per 12 fluid ounces -- similar to the caloric content of soda!

Tips for Delicious Refreshments

Bubbly water is definitely refreshing, but let's face it -- it's not the most exciting beverage out there. Here are a few ways to jazz up your low-calorie, low-sugar drink:

  • Use up fresh fruits and veggies from your garden or your local farmer's market to concoct a delicious infused water. Strawberries, cucumbers, and citrus fruits are a great place to start. You can use either still or sparkling water.
  • Splash some of your favorite 100-percent fruit juice into a glass of sparkling mineral water for a bubbly refreshment with a little natural sweetness.
  • Enjoy some of the great brands of fizzy drinks out there. There are many options made with natural products that you can feel good about enjoying from a health standpoint.
  • Add some flare to your beverage of choice by mixing it with some coconut water. While it may not be carbonated, the coconut water will add extra flavor and also provide electrolytes on hot days.

By understanding what makes frequent consumption of conventional sodas bad for you, you can make better, more creative beverage choices. Find a soda alternative that's made from natural, local, and seasonal ingredients, and get started on the path of making your own healthy and refreshing drinks.

Posted in Family Health

Christina Manian is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally from the Boston area, she attended Boston University where she majored in nutritional sciences with a concentration in dietetics. She recently completed her nutrition education at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on medical nutrition therapy. While her background has mostly been in the clinical setting, Christina embraces wellness nutrition as the backbone of optimum health. She is excited to be able to educate a larger audience about nutrition through the written word.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.