I have never been a huge fan of soft drinks. When we gave up sugar and artificial sweeteners over five years ago, eliminating soda didn't feel like a loss. I know this is a big issue for some people, though, when they find out how my family eats (and drinks). I often hear "I could never give up Coke." and "How can you live without soda?" or "Your children will be so deprived if they can't have soda!" It turns out, folks, that there are some natural alternatives out there!
A few years ago a friend discovered Dr. Tima's Root Beer. Dr. Tima's is sweetened with honey and has a very small, simple list of all-natural ingredients. Coupled with Rice Dream vanilla ice cream (sweetened with brown rice syrup) we even made some fabulous root beer floats for Tie-Dye's birthday one year.
In very recent months, however, DH found what I think is an even better root beer. Virgil's Diet Root Beer is wonderful! It's sweetened with stevia and xylitol, making it incredibly low-carb. Only 2 carbs per bottle! This makes it the perfect treat to have alongside a more carby meal like pizza. We find our Virgil's at Mother's Market (Newport Beach, CA) and Henry's Farmers Market (various SoCal locations). I'm guessing it's also available at Whole Foods stores and other natural stores. Make sure to get the Diet version. The regular version contains sugar.
Reed's Premium Ginger Beer is another tasty soft drink, sweetened with honey. We get this occasionally and usually share a bottle between the four of us.
I've been following a news story about how Coca-Cola is planning on making a Diet Coke sweetened with stevia for the United States (they are calling stevia "rebiana"). The Japanese already have stevia-sweetened Diet Coke. I think this is a step in the right direction, but I still wouldn't want my kids to drink it everyday. Soft drinks contain high levels of phosphorus, which has been shown to weaken bones, especially in young girls (read more about the problems of phosphorus in soft drinks here.) It won't ever be a staple item in my fridge, but I would certainly allow it for special occasions, and I'm glad to see that major corporations like Coca-Cola are realizing they should make healthy changes in their recipes. Hopefully more and more companies will do the same.