Healthy pop substitutes (and other drinks, too!)

healthy pop substitutes

My last article on healthy sugar replacements was one of my most shared articles on social media ever. Hmm, it's like people are addicted to sugar or something? This week, we're tackling added sugar's evil twin sisters: pop (or soda pop, as you Americans call it) and juice.

I started writing this sentence with "I honestly have no clue why pop was even invented", and then a quick Google search quickly enlightened me that pop originated in France with honey-sweetened lemonade (which I would totally be on board with!). The English figured out how to carbonate water, and realized that it had a "pleasant taste", so then pharmacists started adding all sorts of wacky things, like sarsaparilla, dandelion, and birch bark, to give it medicinal qualities. Since it understandably tasted like crap, they added different flavours.

Modern Coca-Cola originated with actual cocaine being added to carbonated water, touted as a cure for morphine addiction, upset stomach, headaches, and ... impotence! Well, of course you'd feel better if you were high on cocaine. That's kind of the point.

Over the years, Coca-Cola and other pop evolved into the sugar monster that we know today. Each can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar, which equals almost 10 teaspoons. No biggie, that's just the Recommended DAILY Intake of sugar in one cup of liquid. And the government and health authorities wonder why obesity and diabetes is such a problem? Duh.

If you think you can circumvent the issue by drinking zero-calorie, artificially-sweetened pop, well, we already covered how that will make you GAIN weight in my last article.

Think of artificial sweeteners as the opposite of Nike. Just don't do it.

In your quest to "get healthy" and kick your pop addiction, you may have fallen under the spell of 100% fruit juices. They're made of fruit, how bad can they be? Turns out, just as bad.

When fruit juices are made, all of the fibre that helps counteract a quick blood sugar spike is removed, so you're left with, well, basically 100% sugar. Again.

Let me be clear, unless you're juicing fresh fruits yourself, and leaving all the lovely enzymes and other phytonutrients that are killed during pasteurization, 100% fruit juices are not a healthy option. They're certainly not a requirement for a healthy child, either. They're not really getting any nutrients, other than fake vitamin C that's added back in after the natural stuff was destroyed during the bottling process.

When it comes to finding healthy pop substitutes if you're addicted, it comes down to figuring out WHY you're body is craving crap it doesn't need.

If you're craving it because of the sugar, then you need to eat regular, whole food meals with some protein in them to keep your blood sugar balanced.

If you're craving it because of mood-enhancing rush of  chemicals created from sugar, then you need to balance your gut bacteria and promote gut health with probiotics, fermented foods and drinks, and decreasing processed foods and potential food allergens. 95% of your feel good brain chemical, serotonin, is created in the gut. At this time of year (winter in the Northern hemisphere), your serotonin levels are more than likely low because of our shorter days. Try the steps above, as well as some gentle exercise to promote more feel-good hormones and neurochemicals.

If you're craving it because of the caffeine, then you need to get more rest and take care of your stress-hormone producing adrenals glands. Yes, this is possible as a busy mom. Sign up for my free Calm Mom Challenge or get on the list for the free Mama Mojo training, where this is covered more in depth.

The final part is finding an incredible replacement, because it's easier to let go of something if you're trying something new. We just need to figure out how to make that something new healthier while still tasting good!

Here's my list for healthy pop substitutes (or juice ... give your kids a fighting chance!):

1. Spa water: I'm not even going to be that annoying Registered Holistic Nutritionist who recommends you drink plain water in place of all flavoured drinks. I already know that NEVER works with people who love pop and juice. If you're one of these people (or living with one), being forced to drink plain water is like flossing. It's never going to be fun, and you're only doing it to "be healthy". That's a habit that's never going to stick unless you really want it to. So flavour your water! I don't have any recipes for this, because I like my water straight up (and room temp, for the record), but here's some that I pinned on Pinterest to get you started.

2. Essential oils: In all of my programs, I recommend that everyone start their day with the juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon squeezed into a large glass of water. It helps promote a bowel movement, and gently cleanses the liver. I'll be the first to admit that doing all of that with a 2-year-old first thing in the morning is sometimes more than I can handle. You know what's infinitely easier? Adding two drops of lemon essential oil to my water and drinking it. I also have fairly sensitive teeth that start to hurt from the acidity of lemon juice, so this helps with that issue, too. When you purchase Therapeutic Grade essential oils, there are several that you can take internally. So flavour your water to your hearts content with lemon, lime, wild orange, grapefruit, peppermint, or ginger. 

3. Herbal teas: Please, whatever you do, don't get the disgusting tea from your local coffee chain (like Tim Horton's). I promise you that if you try their green tea, you will be forever convinced that you hate green tea. Good quality, loose-leaf green, white, or herbal tea is a life changer, so find a local store that sells it, or a franchise like Teavana or a local Steeped Tea consultant (this is my cousin, she knows her stuff, and Steeped Tea has committed to not using any artificial flavouring in their tea). Rooibos tea is 100% caffeine free, so play around with different flavours until you find something that works for you. I personally love anything flavoured with berries! It'll also keep you warm in the cold winter months.

4. Kombucha "sangria": OK, this isn't alcoholic (although you could make it "fun" punch if you really wanted to), but it tastes like summer in a glass, plus it's good for you. I have a whole blog post and video about how to make kombucha, but it's becoming easier and easier to find. If my smallish city of 40,000 has two local spots where you can buy it, most of you should be able to get your hands on it. I dubbed kombucha "the most perfect drink on the planet" because it practically is. It'll help you balance your gut flora, resulting in less digestive issues like acid reflux, IBS, and bloating. Since it supports the gut, it'll also support your immune system and moods. It also has been reported to help support the liver in detox reactions, which will result in more energy and balanced hormones (think less PMS and menopauses). All around, it's super healthy AND it tastes great, plus I've read in other articles how kombucha was the only thing to help them finally kick their pop addiction.

I love it even better in my kombucha sangria recipe below, which makes regular appearances in my house, especially in the summer. My son drinks his "juice" (his name for kombucha, since we don't have any juice in the house) every single night before bed, and he loves picking the fresh fruit out of this punch.

I wanna know: what do YOU drink for healthy pop substitutes? How have you successfully gotten over a pop addiction?



Prep time: 5 mins

1/2 volume kombucha
1/2 volume grapefruit Perrier
1 sliced lemon
1 cup sliced fresh or frozen strawberries
2 handfuls fresh or frozen raspberries

1. Brew your homemade kombucha, or purchase a plain, non-flavoured version.
2. In a large pitcher, add 1/3 of the capacity of the container in kombucha.
3. Add an equal amount of grapefruit Perrier. Be sure to read the ingredients to make sure it's not already sweetened. The only ingredients should be carbonated water and natural flavouring. You could also just use plain carbonated water.
4. Slice up your fruit and add it to the pitcher.
5. Let sit in the fridge to let the flavours meld.
6. After 1-2 days, remove the fruit and discard (it'll start to go really mushy and the colour will look really unappetizing!).

Notes: You could also make this alcoholic by adding in the liquor of your choice. My preference would be plain old vodka, as you can't really taste it. Please don't drink and drive!