Soda Lite

There's nothing like a cool drink. At one point, concocting interesting drinks was my specialty. And I'm not even talking about alcoholic drinks. In the past, I have owned my own water carbonator, an ice shaver, a pod-based coffee/tea maker, and several others. Oh yes, and a blender. But as convoluted as drinks can be, I have found that sometimes the simplest ones taste the best and are the most refreshing. That's why I loved my water fizzer so much. Because the best simple drinks (even some alcoholic drinks) start, and often end, with sparkle and spritz. And by that I mean seltzer. Plain old water plus plain old carbon dioxide. Nothing else needed.

The thing I hate about my usual drink choices is the taste conundrum. You want flavor, but it's often hard to come by. Even fruit juices are all too often mostly sugar and nowhere near 100% fruit juice. Soda (or pop as I still call it) is so overly sugary that it's too sweet. But diet soda is no better. It is just as sweet-tasting as soda and has no calories. Most diet sodas are made with nutra-sweet (aspartame), the uber-controversial artificial sweetener. Some people swear it's perfectly fine for you; others think it causes brain tumors. And recently it has even been reported to retard weight loss or even cause weight gain. Well that's not good. When something that says “diet” is exactly the opposite and people are drinking it as part of plans to cut calories when it counteracts that intention, then I say we have problems.

In all honesty, I don't know what to believe about diet soda. Even if most sodas switched to the seemingly “friendlier” Splenda (sucralose), it would seem only a matter of time before something wrong is found with that sweetener as well. I'm not ready to condemn either sweetener, but I do know that I try to drink as little diet soda as I can – and as little regular soda as I can nowadays. I can't afford hundreds of empty soda calories per day, but I can't afford brain tumors or unnatural weight gain either, so I drink a very little of each and eliminate the problems on both sides of the coin.

But that doesn't mean that after a lifetime of enjoying fizzy beverages I am fine with simply never drinking anything of the sort. In fact, I crave it at times. So I drink cold, fizzy sparkling water. No calories, no problem. Plus it adds to my water intake and levels of hydration. And you can add things to your seltzer to make them taste better with minimal additional calories. Try squeezing a lemon or a lime into some seltzer. It's like fizzy, un-sweet lemonade or limeade. You can cut a glass of orange juice with seltzer and add fizz to the juice and cut the calories per serving in half.

As a special alternative, you can make what I call soda-lite. It actually amazes me that no one really sells this. I contend that most people are okay with a little sugar -- some, in moderation. Why not make soda and have it contain only some sugar, like 10-15% of what is in a regular serving of soda. Make it sweet enough to be “better” than seltzer, but still be low-cal. No additives, no sweeteners; just light soda. Before producers buy this idea from me and mass market it, I will give you the secret recipes. First, you can cut soda with plain seltzer and it tastes pretty good. And you can control how many calories are in each glass by how much seltzer you use. However, this still tastes a little “concocted.”

I can do better. Bottle of seltzer + your bar. Well not really your bar – the mixers in your bar. Sugar syrups, really. But all you need is a little bit – a teaspoon or so – added to a cold, fizzy glass of seltzer, and you’ve got yourself a refreshing, slightly sweet soda-lite. Mix margarita mix for a lime soda-lite. Mix sweet and sour mix for lemon-lime. Mix grenadine for cherry. Mix Cosmo mix for cranberry. And so on. Heck, you can even mix mojito mix for a lime-mint soda-lite. It is actually good. I sound like Willy Wonka.

So yes, there is sugar in soda-lite. And no, I don’t drink it every day. But I do keep it in mind when I want a soda without a whole big sugary or artificial version. Really what I want there is the cool and the fizz and the spritz. And maybe a little sweet. So if you’re in soda recovery, but don’t want to risk the thousand risks of artificial sweeteners, give soda-lite a try. And in a few years, start buying it at stores nationwide!

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