There’s no denying that soda consumption and how it correlates to weight are hot topics. Studies come out nearly every week suggesting a link between drinking regular and diet sodas to everything from obesity to cancer, kidney damage, high blood pressure, and possibly stroke. Even when studies are somewhat inconclusive, they are often publicized in the media as true.
In any case, it’s clear that the extra sugar and calories consumed from soda add up. According to the USDA, 16% of calories in the typical American’s diet come from refined sugars, and half of those calories come from beverages with added sugar. Juices and bottled teas, often perceived to be healthier than a soda, can be as bad or worse because they too are sweetened with added sugars and syrups. And while soda may or may not be directly linked to any number of health problems, obesity does have a proven correlation to a myriad of serious conditions.
What’s a soda drinker to do? Drinking soda can be an addiction like any other; fortunately, steps can be taken to break the addiction. Here are some tips:
Drink more water. If you’re thirsty, it’s your body telling you that it needs water. Instead of reaching for a soda, give your body what it wants. It will hydrate you without adding calories, giving you a caffeine letdown, or causing the bloated feelings that often accompany a diet soda. If you’re looking for more carbonation and fizz, try seltzer, club soda, or mineral water. If you’d like some extra flavor, try adding some fresh fruit like lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon. Experiment with different fruits to see what flavors you like.
If you’re seeking a caffeine boost, try antioxidant-rich green tea. Green tea has been shown to provide a number of health benefits. If you don’t care for the flavor, try it over ice, adding lemon, or adding a small amount of honey. You can also try adding fresh fruit like raspberries or blackberries to iced green tea for a refreshing twist. Green tea has naturally-occurring caffeine in a smaller quantity than soda. If you need more of a boost, try black coffee or a shot of espresso – both calorie-free options. Watch out for fancy coffee drinks that can often become calorie bombs with added syrups, cream or milk, and whipped cream.
Know when you’re craving a soda for reasons other than thirst. Just like other unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking soda has its own set of triggers: movie theaters, restaurants, parties, and other events may make you crave a soda because you would normally drink one in that setting. Boredom can also cause many people to reach for a soda. If you’re feeling the urge to drink soda out of boredom, find something else to occupy your mind, like playing a quick game on your phone, reading a book chapter, or talking to a friend. If you normally take a break to go get a soda while at work, get water instead, or just go for a quick walk.
Get support. It might sound silly, but letting other people know that you’re trying to quit drinking soda can be extremely helpful. They can keep you on track and hold you accountable more than you can do on your own. This will also help them to make sure that there are soda-free options at social gatherings, and you may be able to enlist some friends and family to join the cause. It will also clue them in if you start getting cranky from caffeine withdrawals.
Avoid temptation. Don’t keep soda in your home, and try to steer clear of the soda section at the grocery store. Avoid the soda machines at work, or advocate for healthier options in the vending machines. If you make it inconvenient to get a soda, you’re much less likely to drink one.