Pilk (Pepsi and milk)Share on Pinterest
The latest dirty soda drink is trending on TikTok, but it may be even unhealthier than you think. Image Provided by Pepsi Co
  • Pilk is a combination of Pepsi and Milk that the beverage company turned into a holiday campaign.
  • Experts share that the beverage has been around for a while.
  • Registered dieticians say that, even with milk, the viral beverage does not offer nutritional value and recommend most people consume it in moderation.

Move over egg nog, cider, and hot chocolate. See you later, proffee. There’s a new viral drink trend sweeping the Internet this holiday season: Pilk.

What’s Pilk?

Like proffee (protein + coffee) before it, the beverage combines two ingredients: Pepsi and milk.

Milk and cookies are time-honored combinations to leave out for Santa. But Pepsi’s twist on the tradition includes a contest. Fans who consume the treat, post a photo to specific social media channels by Dec. 25, and use the hashtag #PilkandCookies and #Sweepstakes land on the nice list and earn a chance to win cash prizes. (Following the brand is another rule.)

“Combining Pepsi and milk has long been a secret hack among Pepsi fans,” said Todd Kaplan, Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, in a media release announcing the campaign.

But experts say Pepsi and these fans are not and never were reinventing the wheel.

“The combination is not novel — it’s been around for years at this point,” says Cara Harbstreet, MS RD LD of Street Smart Nutrition.

Nevertheless, influencers are bubbling over with excitement about it.

Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RD, a Brooklyn-based registered dietician, says the concept of combining milk and soda, or “dirty soda,” has been popular among Mormon communities for several years.

“This population typically abstains from alcohol and hot beverages,” Pasquariello says.

Utah has a large community of people who practice the Mormon faith, and Utah-based beverage and the sweets chain Swig capitalized on it. The brand became the self-proclaimed “home of the original dirty soda.”

Flavored versions include ingredients like coke zero, peach puree, and coconut cream.

Gen-Z superstar entertainer Olivia Rodrigo snapped a photo of herself with a Swig cup last year and posted it on Instagram, where she now has nearly 29 million followers. It wound up being good for dirty soda.

One year later, the hashtag #dirtysoda now has more than 115 million views on TikTok, and Pepsi has tapped Lindsay Lohan to help promote its twist on the trend.

Call it what you want — dirty soda or Pilk — the beverage is trending, but is it good for you?

That’s a relative term, of course.

Experts gave their quick-and-dirty takes on its nutritional value, though they cautioned that it’s challenging to come up with precise numbers.

“The nutrient content is hard to accurately measure, as it will depend on a few key factors,” Harbstreet says. “First, the type of milk matters. Although all dairy milks have similar protein content, they differ in fat content and, therefore, calorie content. Second, the ratio matters.”

Say, for example, you’re using a 12 oz. can of Pepsi and a cup (8 oz.) of whole milk. Blanca Garcia, RDN, a registered dietician and nutrition specialist at Midss, says this drink would have 296 calories and 53 grams of sugar.

Breaking it down, Pepsi contains 150 calories and 41 grams of sugar, all added sugar. Milk has 146 calories and 12 grams of sugar, none of which are added.

“The amount of calories is equivalent to a snack without providing a significant source of nutrients from the soda itself,” Garcia says.

But what about the milk? One cup of whole cow’s milk also has 8 grams of protein and 28 percent of your daily calcium needs, essential for muscle and bone health.

Does that make the drink a nutritious addition to your diet?

“While dairy milk is a nutrient-dense option, providing 13 essential vitamins and minerals along with protein, it’s offset at least to some degree by diluting it with the addition of Pepsi,” Harbstreet says.

Harbstreet says the most significant impact comes from sugar.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 recommends that people ages 2 and older keep their intake of added sugars to less than 10% of their caloric consumption.

So, a person consuming 2,000 calories per day should limit their added sugar intake to 200 calories from added sugar, which is about 12 teaspoons or 50 grams.

Pilk puts your intake of added sugar at 41 grams.

Garcia concedes Pepsi’s campaign is catchy, particularly around the holidays. Plus, prizes are involved.

“The common recommendation is to indulge with moderation, get a chance to try everything in small amounts,” Garcia says.

The problem is that if you partake in the campaign and consume Pilk and cookies, the sweet food treats only add to the sugar content. It’s your choice to give it a try, but she doesn’t recommend considering Pilk a nutritious source of vitamins and nutrients.

Pasquariello believes the beverage will eventually fizzle out as a trend — and sooner rather than later.

“I don’t think enough people who aren’t already consuming drinks like this would find Pilk all appealing or would regularly consume it for it to become a permanent staple in anyone’s diet,” Pasquariello says.

Pasquariello is honest: If her prediction is true, that’s probably a good thing.

“While there’s nothing inherently bad or “wrong about consuming soda or dairy, there’s no strong reason to be consuming either one,” she says. “When it comes to soda especially, the scientific community agrees that the higher one’s consumption of soda — and even diet soda — the higher one’s risk for a variety of chronic diseases as well as obesity.”

Several studies over the years have raised alarms about sugary beverage consumption.

For instance, two 2019 large U.S. cohorts of more than 37,000 men and nearly 80,700 women indicated that long-term sugary beverage consumption was associated with a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Another large 2019 study of more than 450,000 people from 10 European countries indicated that consuming total, sugar-sweetened, and artificially-sweetened soft drinks were linked with a higher chance of all-cause mortality.

Our knowledge of these facts makes the dirty soda trend interesting to Harbstreet.

“I think it might speak to a little rebellious nature in all of us — as in, I feel like I’m doing something I’m not supposed to be doing,” Harbstreet says.

Harbstreet can’t recommend it to everyone and says it depends on dietary needs. Individuals with diabetes and lactose intolerances should be particularly careful.

“Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t eat or drink carbs — you’ll just need to monitor for blood sugar changes and adjust insulin or medication accordingly,” Harbstreet says. “As for people with lactose intolerance, some milk options like Lactaid or A2 milk, [which is] milk made from cows who produce only the A2 protein, can soften the uncomfortable GI symptoms they’ll likely experience.”

Whether you’re channeling your inner rebel, want to win a cash prize, or are looking for an alcohol-free beverage, Harbstreet shares that it’s important to step back and assess whether it’s a good idea.

Additionally, people should speak with providers if they are concerned about how food or drink will affect their health.

“TikTok is built on virality and watch time,” Harbstreet says. “The platform is designed to show you things you never knew you wanted to see but can’t pull your eyes away from.”

Safety and the potential to trigger disordered eating habits are two of Harbstreet’s biggest concerns about TikTok trends.

Harbstreet recommends asking yourself these questions before trying a TikTok trend:

  1. Is it safe?
    “No TikTok trend is worth a bout of severe food-borne illness or physical harm in the kitchen,” she says.
  2. Is it worth it?
    Will I need to buy special ingredients or stretch my resources for this?
  3. Is this something I feel pressured to try?
    “Just because our peers or someone with influence is doing it doesn’t mean it will be personally gratifying to do the same,” Harbstreet says. “There’s nothing wrong with feeling curiosity or openness towards trying new food, but we shouldn’t do it simply for the gross-out ick factor or to hop on a trend with the hope of going viral.”