Sweetener Wars

In the news: the “Sweetener Wars” continue as the blue, pink, and yellow packets are being joined with green Stevia packets.  Also there’s more “combination” sweeteners coming out. 

What I find interesting is the mix of preferences. 

  • Those who avoid sugar for medical reasons.
  • Those who find avoiding aspartame, HFCS,  sugar, or sucralose reduces headaches or other problems. 
  • Those who prefer the taste of one sweetenter or another.  
  • Those who prefer one sweetener for one use and another for another (example: aspartame disolves better with cold liquids than sugar, so add it to iced tea; but using splenda or sugar for baking.) 
  • Those who can and can’t tolerate the sugar alcohols, like malitol and sorbitol, which are mostly used in candy. 

 For some, fat acceptance can mean avoiding “diet” anything.  Alternatively, it can also mean just going with one’s own preferences, regardless of calories.  

Myself?  While dieting in high school I had dabbled in Tab before discovering I preferred the lemony Pepsi Light. (I think the lemon flavor made the bitter saccharine aftertaste “normal”.)   But what made me a serious Diet Coke drinker was my rapid, panicked flight from the super-sweet taste of New Coke in 1985. By the time Coca-Cola reintroduced the “Classic Coke” I had become used to  the taste and mouth feel of Diet Coke … with the result that drinking “real” pop feels like drinking syrup.   At Microsoft I experimented more (nothing like a well-stocked, free pop case)  and ended up drinking more Diet Sprite and Diet Pepsi.  

So yeah, I drink diet pop.  I also eat chocolate with sugar, not sugar-free.

24 thoughts on “Sweetener Wars

  1. I definitely agree: it should be up to the consumer, for whatever reason they wish to ingest sugar/HFCS/sorbitol/wevs.

    I use to put the yellow stuff in my iced tea (for the dissolve factor) before I got pregnant, because it tasted enough like real sugar (my preference) that I didn’t have the reaction to its taste, as opposed to the pink or blue stuff, which I’ve always found to have a revolting taste.

    During the pregnancy, and since then, I pretty much stick to real sugar/honey for my sweeteners, and if I drink iced tea, I have more patience. Even the yellow stuff is too strong a ‘fake’ taste for me.

    I try to avoid HFCS in general (too sweet), although I will have a soda sometimes (Coke if it’s a cola — Pepsi’s too sweet for me).

  2. By the time Coca-Cola reintroduced the “Classic Coke”

    Classic Coke actually has one difference from Old Coke: the old recipe required sugar, and the new one offers bottlers a choice of sugar or HFCS (and since HFCS is cheaper in the US, that’s what all the US bottlers use in practice). So in fact Classic Coke does taste syrupy compared to the original, pre-New Coke. (At least to me. HFCS tastes too sweet to me.) For a while I drank Jolt, until they joined the corn-syrupy dark side.

    I also drink diet soda pretty much exclusively. I always feel like people are looking at me weird if I order some “fat-inappropriate” dish at a restaurant along with a diet soda or iced tea – which is probably all in my head, but I do see comments from people saying “Oh, this fat woman ordered a burger with fries, and then had the nerve to order a Diet Coke, who does she think she’s fooling?” Sigh.

    • Classic Coke actually has one difference from Old Coke: the old recipe required sugar, and the new one offers bottlers a choice of sugar or HFCS (and since HFCS is cheaper in the US, that’s what all the US bottlers use in practice).

      Except in communities with a largish Jewish contingent during Passover, because HFCS isn’t Kosher for Passover and sugar is. I’ve had full-sugar Coke (and Jones Soda, which uses cane sugar) and it’s still too syrupy for me.

  3. I can’t stand the taste of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, but I like Coke Zero. Diet Sprite is a little more tolerable, but I prefer regular Sprite, or gingerale.

    I like to drink water with lemon and Splenda or Equal. I also use True Lemon and mix it with Splenda or Equal in my water. I know some people would say, well, just drink lemonade, which I love, but I get more water intake the first way and Splenda/Equal sweetens water faster than actual sugar. I refuse to touch Sweet & Low. It has too much of a medicine taste for me.

  4. I like the taste of Coke Zero & I love a regular Coke, so I buy one occasionally. I would drink more probably if I could get the regular Coke in the caffeine free version, since my issues are with caffeine rather than sugar. I also like the regular caffeine-free Pepsi, but my usual beverages are pure unsweetened fruit juices &, most of all, decaf tea, also unsweetened.

  5. I’m with you on the “preferring diet Coke” front. I had a slice of pizza at an all-natural hippie-dippie pizzeria place today, which was yum, but they only had natural colas and sodas and what-not, so I was balked of having soda because they were all too sweet for me.

  6. I’ve found it’s very difficult to get waiters to serve me Classic Coke in restaurants. They see a fat woman, and think I *must* have meant to order the Diet Coke. (Both Splenda and Nutrasweet give me migraines, so it’s important to me to have drinks with real sugar or no sweetener at all.) Stevia, Ace-K, etc, tend to be combined with sucralose in commercial practice…so I need to avoid them as well.

    In some ways, Splenda is more of a problem for me than Nutrasweet, though it takes a smaller dose of Nutrasweet to trigger a migraine. Splenda produces a syrupy mouthfeel, like sugar. A comparably sweet solution of Nutrasweet doesn’t feel syrupy at all; that’s why some people like Diet Coke when they’re really thirsty, and it’s how I can recognize it at the first sip. Splenda-sweetened stuff is harder to detect, and it’s less likely to have obvious labels, because Splenda is classified as safe/natural/healthy. It’s in cough syrups for children, and in all those quick-dissolve strips of OTC medication. I’ve seen ads in cooking magazines, for Splenda-by-the-cup, suggesting one should substitute it for sugar in favorite baked goods. Under pictures of a plate of cookies being passed around a party, it said something like, “Splenda is so much healthier than sugar! Your friends and family will never know the difference!” Er…I’ll know the difference, thanks anyhow.

    • I’m in the same boat as you, Adrian –all the artificial sweeteners so far give me horrible headaches. Splenda gives me a nasty aftertaste, too, but only after I’ve eaten enough of it to give me the headache (gee, thanks, body, great early warning system there….)

    • Yikes. Adrian, that has to be really irritating.

      To steal a tip from dieters, I’ve heard of people who were intent on making sure they never got anything but Diet Coke using a sugar tester (diabetic test strips of some sort, I think?) to see if their drink had sugar or not. It struck me as just a bit obsessive for dieting, but for making sure you *don’t* get diet whatever and avoiding a migraine, it might be something to consider.

    • The whole concept of stealth frankenfood substitution really terrifies me, especially since aspartame gives me severe cramping, followed by night sweats, followed by an all over body rash and flulike symptoms the next day.

  7. Usually I just drink water, because I’m thirsty. Sweet drinks (diet or regular) don’t quench my thirst, they make it worse. Therefore, I drink soda under one of two circumstances.

    1) I either got up really late or didn’t get my morning coffee for some reason, am starting to get the caffeine withdrawal headache, and need a fix NOW. I usually raid my dad’s stash of Coke Zero for these occasions.

    2) I’ve got a craving for a root beer float or ginger ale. Anything will do for the former, but I want a really strong ginger kick in my ginger ale! Reed’s or Bundaberg, mmm. Other people try a sip and usually choke. Either way, it’s an occasional treat.

    Oh, and after learning about FA, I’ve started putting real sugar in my coffee instead of Splenda or Equal. Real live sugar. My gods, it tastes so much better now! I just have to figure out how much is right for me, since I was using packets for so many years…

  8. I’d like to throw in Stevia! I add it to my tea even though it has a slight flavor, because prior to buying it I went through a lot of sugar very fast. just winds up being more economical.

    • Stevia sort of inspired the post – or rather, news coverage about Stevia going more mass-market :)

      And yes, sugar isn’t always the cheapest option. One thing people forget is that saccharin first went into wide use during sugar shortages in WWI.

  9. I’m the same way about thinking regular coke is like drinking syrup. And unfortunately I prefer aspartame over the other sweeteners. (Unfortunately because it’s inconvenient to have really specific soft-drink preferences.)

  10. I’m anxious to try one of the stevia based sweeteners-I hate splenda and aspartame both but I need to watch my sugar intake because I’ve got insulin resistance. I never did drink a lot of pop but I like a cup of tea with sugar, iced tea, and the very occasional soda. Any word on how they taste so far?

    I also dislike the HFCS syrupy thing but I think I’ve gotten used to it.

  11. My mother was a chronic dieter, so we always had Diet Pepsi and Slim Fast in the house. Any kind of “regular” soda has always tasted too sweet for me.

    I am probably the only person in the world who considers Slim Fast a comfort food.

  12. I’ve gotten so used to drinking diet soda that any regular stuff is like liquid candy. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing seems to depend. I’m not a fan of regular Coke or Pepsi anymore, but I adore Jones Cream Soda. It’s like heaven in a can, but so sweet I only ever want one, and drink it slowly to enjoy it. I don’t know if this means I like cane sugar soda better than HFCS soda or just that the uber-sweet taste seems wrong in cola.

    Most diet sodas taste “okay” to me. I tend to prefer Diet Sierra Mist or Diet Sprite, or any of the Jones Diet Sodas made with Splenda.

    I also tend to drink ridiculously large quantities of diet soda. (I’m thirsty a lot, but water is “bleh” unless it’s very cold or has lemon. Though I like the flavored waters made with Splenda.) I can see what Adrian said about diet soda being more satisfying when you’re thirsty, since I can’t picture drinking 3-4 cans of real cola in a sitting, but can easily do it with the diet.

    Apart from soda, I’ll use Splenda if it’s available, because the blue and pink packets just taste gross to me. If there’s no Splenda, I’ll use real sugar. I’ve tried baking with Splenda some, but mostly I just use it for tea or coffee.

    My reasons are kind of complex. I’m not dieting anymore, but because I am at least somewhat hypoglycemic, I try to watch my sugar intake. I figure that if there’s no Splenda available, a packet or two of the real stuff is highly unlikely to kill me. On the other hand, if Splenda is available, it seems silly to have something that may do funky things to my blood sugar, when I can get the sweet taste I want with Splenda.

  13. My husband was diagnosed with diabetes (not that he’ll admit it… he says he has a “sugar problem”). So, we switched to diet pop at home.. and I’ve just gotten used to having that so that’s what I have outside the home too.

  14. I have perhaps the strangest sweetner habit on earth. When I have an iced Tea, ideally I will put a half a packet of Sweet’n low and a half a packet of equal. I find the taste of the combination of the two sweetners much more appealing than the taste of either on their own.

    People always look at me funny.

  15. I hate Splenda and acesulfame potassium, but I like NutraSweet. I will hate the Coca-Cola company forever for changing the formula of Diet Cherry Coke to an acesulfame K based one. Of course they will never know it because I still buy Diet Coke pretty frequently. Coke Zero is OK, I guess, but I don’t really want my pop to taste “more like Coke.” I want it to taste like Diet Coke.

    I avoid most other foods with artificial sweeteners. Maybe it’s because pop is like a totally artificial, invented food anyway, but it seems normal to me to drink diet pop. Diet yogurt or ice cream or chocolate (though I do eat these things from time to time) just seem wrong.

  16. If I’m having a tummy ache, I like half regular soda mixed with seltzer or sparkling water or diet soda. One day when I was recovering from a stomach yukkiness I got a diet sprite and a regular sprite and some animal crackers from the vending machine, and ended up riding in the elevator with the head of our organization — creating god-knows what impression.

  17. Pingback: Soda Ban? « Living ~400lbs

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