As a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice, part of my job is to talk to my clients about their usual eating routines, including what they drink with meals and throughout the day. While both regular and diet soda are consumed less frequently these days, some people I work with struggle to kick the habit.
Most are fully aware that regular soda offers no nutritional value, and one 12-ounce can packs about 40 grams of sugar, a whopping 10 teaspoons worth. That’s more than the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of six teaspoons of added sugar for women and nine for men. Word has also spread that diet sodas aren’t a better option, and that side effects from artificial sweeteners may include an increase in glucose intolerance and obesity.
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Yet, a number of people I counsel crave soda out of habit, use it as a caffeine boost, or rely on it as a sweet treat. If habit is your top trigger (maybe you always start the day with a soda, or regularly sip on one during your commute), start with a simple swap. Trade your soda for a bubbly alternative that provides flavor without any regular or fake sugar, like seltzer or sparkling water. Ditching just one can of regular soda a day will slash 3,650 teaspoons of sweetener a year, the amount in over three 10 pound sacks of sugar.
If you rely on soda for caffeine, opt for iced black or green tea instead. If needed, you can lightly sweeten with a teaspoon of raw honey or pure maple syrup. Or try it unsweetened, with a wedge of lemon, a few fresh mint leaves, or a splash of 100% fruit juice. In addition to significantly cutting back or cutting out added sugar, you’ll get a healthy dose of antioxidants along with your caffeine fix.
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Finally, if soda satisfies your sweet tooth, try replacing it with fresh fruit, like grapes, berries, citrus, melon, or other seasonal favorites. Fruit is hydrating, rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and it’s a far more filling way to get your sweet fix.
Are you up for the challenge? Pick a day to start testing out these tips, and give your swaps a solid two weeks to take hold. We bet your soda drinking days will be behind you before you know it!
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.