It’s an age-old question: Is diet soda or regular soda the healthier choice? For the calorie-conscious, finding a caffeine jolt for zero calories can be the perfect pick-me-up during a long afternoon or an early morning, but is it really better for you than the real stuff? Judy Matusky, dietitian at Bryn Mawr and Paoli Hospitals, explains.
“Diet soda doesn’t contain the calories that regular soda does, but it uses artificial sweetener in place of the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup found in regular sodas,” she explains. “Although it doesn’t mean that diet soda is necessarily worse for you, it’s something to consider before you decide to visit the vending machine.”
While a handful of studies have linked the artificial sweeteners found in diet soda to an increased risk for health issues like stroke, diabetes, and heart attack, Matusky says that, at this point, there are still more questions surrounding these studies and diet soda’s effects on our health than answers.
So what’s a soda drinker to do? Matusky advises those with a taste for bubbly beverages to enjoy diet soda or regular soda…in moderation.
“Regular soda should be thought of as a treat, like we would think of dessert,” she says. “Most of us can’t afford a beverage with 240 calories from sugar, but diet soda shouldn’t be your go-to beverage on a daily basis, either. I like to tell people that if they’re going to drink something, it’s important to get some benefit from the beverage rather than the questionable additives you’ll find in soda.”
In lieu of diet drinks, Matusky offers some suggestions for beverages that might satisfy your cravings:
Flavored Carbonated Water. Sold at grocery stores, flavored, carbonated water drinks or seltzer water can offer the same fizzy appeal that soda can, without the added calories.
Coffee or Tea. Traditional, yes, but both of these beverages offer natural antioxidants and the caffeine kick that soda does, without the calories. Add a teaspoon of sugar or honey to a cup of tea, and stick with a teaspoon or two of sugar for one cup of coffee and avoid high-calorie toppings like whipped cream or sugary syrup. Instead, add some fat free milk for calcium and Vitamin D.
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