When it comes to guilty pleasures, soda is right up there with gossiping and crushing entire tubs of ice cream at a time; you know it’s not great for you, but it just feels so. darn. good.
Really, though, if there’s anything worth cutting from your diet — it’s soft drinks. Easier said than done, I get it! But a few simple techniques might help you (finally) figure out how to stop drinking soda for good.
Reminder: Soft drinks aren’t good for you.
You already know that soft drinks are, well, not great for you. Okay, it’s pretty bad for you. At least if you want to live a long, kick-ass life.
A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on more than 450,000 people from across Europe found that people who consumed two servings of soft drinks per day (diet, included) had a higher risk of dying from any cause compared to those who sipped less than one serving a month. (It’s also been linked with higher risk of stroke, diabetes, and obesity.)
“The challenge with soft drinks is the quantity of added sugars,” says Brooklyn-based dietitian Maya Feller, author of The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook. Often, a serving meets (or exceeds!) the recommendation for your total daily added sugar intake.
Yep: 330ml can of cola packs 35 grams of sugar. That’s nearly nine teaspoons of sugar dumped in there. Not to mention that a can of lemon-lime soft drink has 38 grams (nearly 10 teaspoons) of sugar. Whoa. You knew it was sweet, but didn’t know it was that sweet.
But aren’t diet soft drinks healthier?
Before you even go there, let me tell you: Diet soft drinks aren’t the answer, either. Diet soft drinks may be sugar-free, but all those artificial, calorie-free sweeteners aren’t exactly good for you, either.
“Some artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar,” says Feller. While they may have less of an effect on your blood sugar, that sweetness overload still makes you crave more sugar, she says. Not exactly the outcome you’re going for.
Not to mention, research has linked consuming artificial sweeteners with an increased risk of stroke, depression, and belly fat. Again, no bueno.
READ MORE: 5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making If You’re Trying To Cut Down On Sugar
So what is the best way to stop drinking soft drinks?
Ready to give the syrupy-sweet habit the boot? Just follow these dietitian-backed tips.
- Go gradual — not cold turkey. Good news! You don’t have to wake up tomorrow and vow to never have soft drinks again. (That probably wouldn’t work out anyway.) “Making drastic changes is not an effective way to create sustainable behavioural changes,” says dietitian Mascha Davis, RDN, author of the upcoming book Eat Your Vitamins.
- Have a plan. It’s one thing to tell yourself you’ll cut back, it’s another to have an exact goal that you can work toward. Let’s say you usually drink two sodas a day. As you get started, keep your two sodas four days a week, but cut down to one the other three days, suggests Davis. “You won’t feel like this thing you enjoyed so much is being taken away,” she says.
- Then, reevaluate and adjust. Take a second for a self check-in. How tough was the first step? “Most people say that incrementally decreasing intake is actually an easy switch,” says Davis. Once you feel comfortable with your new soft drink routine, cut down more: have one soft drink four days a week and half a soft drink the other three.
- Find balance elsewhere. Unfortunately, if you were consuming large amounts of caffeinated soft drinks, you may experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms as you cut back. To diminish the side effects, stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and prioritize at least seven hours of sleep per night.
- Be patient with your taste buds. Though cutting back on soft drinks may leave you with wicked sugar cravings at first, your taste buds will eventually stop seeking out super sweet flavours, and your desire for soft drinks will wane. “As you adjust to a lower amount of sugar and sweetness, it becomes easier and easier to have less soda,” says Davis. When this kicks in (it might take a few weeks), commit to drinking just one soft drinks every other day.
- Never say never. Though you want to cut back on soft drinks so that you don’t rely on it regularly, you don’t have to cut it out completely. “Keep it as an occasional treat,” says Davis.
What’s a good drink instead of soft drinks?
Does the thought of swapping soft drinks for plain water literally make you cringe? Yeah, I don’t blame you. Keep your taste buds occupied by subbing soda out for one of these flavourful, good-for-you drinks.
Herbal tea. If you’re craving soft drinks, go for teas with bolder flavour, like hibiscus or mint, recommends Feller.
Sparkling water. If the fizz and flavour are what you love about soft drinks, meet your new love: flavoured sparkling water, says Davis.
Kombucha. Davis also gives kombucha, a fermented, fizzy tea, the green light. Since this buzzy drink does naturally contain some sugar (it’s necessary for the fermentation process), read labels carefully and look for a brand that’s lower in sugar.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: Ashley Kirk on Unsplash