If you are trying to cut back on sugar and calories, diet soda sure beats the real thing! A 20-ounce regular Coke has 240 calories and 65 grams of carbohydrates, all of which come from sugar, according to the Coca-Cola website. In comparison, Diet Coke and Coke Zero Sugar are free of calories and sugar. However, not all diet sodas taste that good — and some bear almost no resemblance to the regular sodas from which they are based. For example, Diet Mountain Dew only looks and smells like real Mountain Dew. Flavor matters the most, though, and Reddit has panned the soft drink for its “horrible, strong chemical taste.” Plus, until recently, the soda contained bromine, a substance that, in high quantities, has been linked to memory problems, skin lesions, and nerve disease, according to Scientific American.
On the other hand, Diet Dr. Pepper rivals the flavor of regular Dr. Pepper, with Fast Food Geek describing the slightly cherry-tinged cola as “world renowned for its rich flavor for a diet drink.” The blog had similar praise for Dr. Pepper Ten, a ten-calorie-per-serving version of Dr. Pepper, but alas: sales never took off for this version, which was targeted specifically at men (per Beverage Daily). So which other diet sodas should you crack open when you are craving some fizz — and which ones fall a little flat in the flavor department?
The best and worst sugar-free colas
If you are seeking a sugar-free alternative to everyday cola soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi, your options abound. You will get the maximum pep in your step from Pepsi Zero Sugar, which has the most caffeine of any widely available soft drink on the market, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Pepsi Zero Sugar also offers a natural energy boost from ginseng, an herb that can be found in energy drinks, too. In terms of flavor, most people consider Pepsi Zero Sugar to be a huge upgrade over Diet Pepsi; recent recipe changes to the decades-old, sugar-free soft drink resulted in an “undrinkable” beverage, Fox News reported.
Seeking a diet soda that tastes exactly like Coca Cola Classic? Coca Cola Zero Sugar is a dead ringer. Coke’s other incredibly popular sugar-free alternative is Diet Coke, which actually tastes nothing like regular Coke! Depending on who you ask, this is either a very good or very bad thing, as Cosmopolitan points out. When you get bored of plain cola flavor, you can find flavored versions of Coke and Pepsi’s diet drinks. The picky epicurean magazine Food & Wine raved about Orange Vanilla Coke’s Zero Sugar version for hinting not-too-subtly of vanilla. Cherry-cola soda seekers, meanwhile, will find much to love about Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry (per Near Of).
The best and worst fruit-flavored diet sodas
Cola, of course, is not for everyone — there’s a reason why Sprite and 7Up are so popular, after all. So what are the best sugar-free alternatives when you are craving a refreshing citrus soda? It depends on whether you want to taste the sourness of the lemon, or just the sweetness; Diet 7Up has a definite zesty undertone, while Sprite Zero Sugar only tastes of the sugar it lacks. Neither option contains artificial colors, according to Eat This.
The same cannot be said for diet orange sodas, however, which get their hue from chemical food dyes. Similar in flavor to carbonated Tang, Fanta Zero has an inauthentic orange taste that is not terribly surprising, considering that its ingredient list includes artificial colors and oils, as does its aspartame-laden competitor, Diet Sunkist. In a comparison of different diet orange soda options, Ranker gave top taste marks to Diet Orange Crush, but none of these fruit-flavored beverages are great if you want to avoid artificial ingredients. Your best bet for a natural fruit-flavored soft drink is carbonated Bai; EatThis raved about both the flavor and health benefits of these fruit-juice-sweetened, caffeinated sodas.
The best and worst root beers and ginger ales
When you are offered beverage service on an airplane, the options tend to be limited to cola and lemon-flavored sodas, but the supermarket aisles are teeming with sugar-free fizzy choices, like root beer! This ice cream parlor favorite does come in diet versions; Diet A&W Root Beer is known for being super-sweet, though, so you won’t need to add that scoop of vanilla. Diet Barqs and Diet Mug Root Beer are also popular options. If you are trying to avoid artificial additives, EatThis suggests instead trying Zevia Ginger Root Beer, which is sweetened with stevia.
While we’re talking about nostalgic sodas, we cannot forget cream soda and ginger ale. Diet A&W Cream Soda is one of the more popular choices, while Zevia and other craft soda brands make stevia-sweetened cream sodas and ginger ales, just as they do for root beer. But not all of these sodas may delight you. Virgil’s Diet Cream was deemed “not fit for human consumption” by Art of Manliness… so take that under advisement! As for ginger ales, both Spoon University and Esquire ranked regular Canada Dry Ginger Ale as the number one ginger ale on the market, but Canada Dry Ginger Ale Zero Sugar received stunningly negative reviews on the brand’s website. Drinking the diet version may end up completely derailing your get-healthy plans by tempting you to toss away the calorie-free can and just enjoy some regular, sugary bubbles.
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