Soda has become a staple in many households as a beverage of choice and unfortunately it may not be your best option. Whether you call it soda, pop, soft drinks, or whatever else, and whatever preference in flavor you may have, eliminating or significantly reducing your intake could be one of the most positive changes you can make for a healthier lifestyle.
What’s in Soda, Anyway?
Soda’s original recipe, dating way back to the later 1700s, was carbonated water, natural sugar,and other natural flavorings. Yet, in modern times, although some recipes can vary, many brands contain high fructose corn syrup (aka sugar), aspartame (diet versions), caffeine, caramel coloring, phosphoric acid, and brominated vegetable oil. And no matter how it is produced, soda has limited nutritional value.
The typical American is not short on sugar intake by any means, and drinking your sugar offers no real sense of satiety. A 12-ounce can of cola has 39 grams of sugar (if this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is).
Almost 10 teaspoons in one serving!) Consuming excess sugar over a period of time (note that this can be subjective depending on the person’s biology, as for some it could be over many years and for others months if the quantities are excessive enough) can contribute to health concerns such as weight gain, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, dental enamel erosion, and fatty liver disease. Additionally, research has proven that sugar has addictive qualities, as it targets the same receptor sites within the brain as other addictive substances.
You may say, “Well, I stick to diet sodas,” but artificial sugars have some ill effects as well, such as stomach discomforts. Also, consumption of artificial sugars has been proven to do little to satiate the “sweet tooth”, and once again you’ll be heading down the path of consuming excess sugar to get that feeling of sweet satisfaction.
Caffeine is another additive in soda that could be of concern. Along with the sugar intake that can cause highs and lows in blood sugar, excess caffeine can have direct effects on heart rates.
Time to Rethink Your Drink
If cutting back on soda sounds easier said than done to you, here are a few tips:
Share your goals. Tell friends, family, coworkers, and others that you value and trust about your desire to switch up from soda. Not ready to share? Fitbit health coaches are a great place to start for support and encouragement when working on health goals. Having support can keep you focused on becoming healthier and soda free!
Create a plan to cut back or out. Assessing your current consumption of soda and making a plan to cut back can be effective and realistic. If you are having 5 cans a day, set a target to reduce to 4, then 3 and so on. Same applies for fountain beverages—start by downgrading to a smaller cup!
Replacing it with healthier alternatives. If you can, try to avoid diet drinks and instead go for water or flavored carbonated or sparkling water. There are many brands and varieties of sparkling water available that offer up both bubbles and flavor without the added sugar. Or, invest in an at-home appliance like a Sodastream to make your own carbonated water flavors. Swapping soda for plain water is a major upgrade! If plain water doesn’t do it for you, try fruit-infused water by adding fruits or fresh herbs to flavor naturally.
Switch up the habit. Soda may seem like the thing to curb the sugar monster, and include it for long enough in your routine and it becomes a habit. So, when you’re craving something sweet, dining at a regular establishment or eating a particular meal, you reach for or order the soda on autopilot. But you can always break the pattern and apply some mindfulness to your choices. Take a minute to assess your beverage options and apply some awareness to acknowledge your mood and desire, then make the choice to upgrade.
Plan ahead for meals, snacks, and drinks. When we are hungry, stressed, or pressed for time, we often reach for something quick and most of the time sweet. Avoid the urge to grab a soda and get used to carrying a water bottle with you—everywhere! Plan on snacks too, such as transportable fruit (banana, grapes, or an apple) or pre-packaged nuts, trail mix, or nut butters. Set up a routine to prepare a few meal and snack options for the week, so that you can take the thought out of what to eat and stay properly fueled and hydrated.
Author: Salome Rivera, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist, is a Fitbit Health Coach. Salome’s personal journey with weight loss led her to become a coach—where, over the past ten years, she has helped others achieve their health and wellness goals. When not coaching, Salome recharges her mind, body, and spirit with meditation, mindfulness, walking in nature, and weight training.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.