We Tried "Healthy Coke"—Here's What We Thought

This viral TikTok trend claimed that you can make a healthy soda alternative with two simple ingredients. Is it worth a try? Find out what we thought, how the drink became popular and what are some of the actual flavors in Coca-Cola. Plus, learn some other healthy soda alternatives.

sparkling water and balsamic together with a glass of the mixture
Photo: Getty Images

From salmon rice bowls to baked feta pasta, food trends thrive on TikTok. One of the the latest trends to take over the social media app is a hack that claims you can make a "healthy" Coke with two ingredients: balsamic vinegar and sparkling water. But are there actually any health benefits to it? And does it really taste like a Coke? Read on for everything you need to know about "healthy Coke."

What Is "Healthy Coke"?

"Healthy Coke" combines a splash of balsamic vinegar (most who've tried the hack are using about 1 tablespoon) in a cup of ice with a sparkling drink of your choice. And as for the taste, the reviews are mixed. Sean Brady Kenniff, senior digital food editor for EatingWell, put two different versions of the drink to the test.

"I filled two pint glasses with ice, then added 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to each before adding plain seltzer to one and lemon-lime seltzer to the other. I stirred each with a straw and then sipped. The lemon-lime version was slightly more palatable than the 'healthy Coke' made with plain seltzer."

So, would he try it again? "I wouldn't recommend either version unless carbonated salad dressing sounds appetizing to you (to each their own!). It looked like Coke, but did not taste like Coke—at all," says Kenniff.

What Sparked the "Healthy Coke" Trend?

TikTok user Amanda Jones popularized "healthy Coke," which was a recipe she learned about from her Pilates instructor, who apparently makes the beverage "almost, like, every day."

Jones' original 50-second video has accumulated more than 6 million views and counting since it was first posted in early June, and has caused quite a bit of controversy among soda lovers, but has also gotten a LOT of people to give the drink a try. The hashtag #healthycoke has over 70 million views on the app, filled with skeptics and even some lovers who have given the drink a try.

Is "Healthy Coke" Actually Healthy?

Samar Kullab, M.S., RDN, LDN, better known as @chicago.dietitian on TikTok, thought the concoction was "disgusting" when she tried it, and says you needn't write off Coke entirely—she says just have a Coke occasionally in moderation if that's what you're craving—even if this is a better option than drinking traditional diet soda.

"It's safe to say most people agree that it does not taste like a Coke. Balsamic vinegar has some health benefits, but this can't be called a healthy Coke when it's not even a Coke to begin with. That's like saying lettuce wraps are a healthy bread. It may be a lower-calorie option that can be used in place of bread, but it's not actually bread."

So add this "healthy Coke" to the list of food alternatives that can be a way to limit your consumption of the real thing, but won't be a total replacement.

What Are the Actual Flavorings in Coca-Cola?

While this beverage might look like a classic Coca-Cola, it's not easy to replicate the exact (speculated) notes of vanilla, cinnamon, citrus, nutmeg and possibly coriander (the actual recipe is a closely held proprietary secret) which make Coke so popular. Most colas contain caffeine, which is also an aspect noticeably missing from this alternative. Caramel coloring gives Coke a dark hue and sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup and/or sugar make it sweet. The original "healthy Coke" creator Jones uses a guava-flavored La Croix in her video, so it might be worth giving this creation a try with different flavored waters outside of traditional lemon-lime, if you're so inclined.

Is It Safe to Drink Vinegar?

A splash of vinegar in your water is OK, but it might not be the best idea to consume it in excess, says Kullab. "It's OK to drink vinegar that's mixed with water or most other liquids. If it's consumed alone, in larger amounts, it can possibly erode tooth enamel, trigger acid reflux and cause inflammation within your stomach and esophagus."

But don't sweat it if you've already given the drink a try, she shared: "The drink itself is safe to consume for the average healthy adult, especially since it's diluted. However, some people with certain conditions like stomach ulcers would need to avoid acidic foods."

Alternatives to "Healthy Coke"

If you want the taste of cola with some added benefits thrown in, try out brands like Poppi and Olipop, which add gut-friendly prebiotics to their fizzy drinks and could qualify more closely as a Coke alternative.

As noted by some commenters on TikTok, this beverage is more like a shrub, which is a drinking vinegar. A shrub is a concentrated thick syrup (similar to the consistency of a balsamic reduction) made with fruit, vinegar and sugar.

Bottom Line

We recommend giving this recipe for a Strawberry Shrub a try instead of making a "healthy Coke," if you want to experiment with adding vinegar to your beverages. But don't send your balsamic vinegar to the trash over this! Instead, try these 15 Balsamic Chicken Recipes that totally prove it's the ultimate marinade, or make your own vinaigrette at home and never buy salad dressing again.

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