Soda lovers beware: nothing can sabotage a slim-down like a soft drink habit. That’s because at about 250 calories and nearly 70 grams of sugar per one 20-ounce bottle of regular soda, carbonated beverages make it a little too easy to sip your way to extra pounds. Case in point: in a 20-year study on 120,000 men and women published in The New England Journal of Medicine, people who increased their sugary drink consumption by one 12-ounce serving per day gained more weight over time than those who didn’t change their intake.
Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, you could benefit from giving soda the slip. A 2010 review of related studies published in the journal Diabetes Care demonstrated that people who consume at least one to two cans of sugary drinks a day have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely pile on the pop. Other studies have found a link between regular consumption of sugary beverages and a higher risk of heart disease, gout, tooth decay and possibly even compromised bone health.
So by now it’s probably pretty clear that you should be so done with soda. But how do you quit the carbonated stuff? Here are some simple steps to quit your soda habit:
If you’re a daily soda drinker, going completely cold turkey may be difficult—especially since many people report feeling addicted to the sugary stuff. Instead, try weaning yourself off slowly. If you drink two cans a day, commit to cutting down to one can three days of the week to start. Once you’ve mastered that, try trimming your intake even further.
Drink a Glass of Water First
This isn’t just a strategy for slimming down your food intake, it can help you cut back on soft drink intake as well. Sip on a large glass of water before reaching for soda. You may find that once your belly is full, you’ll no longer “need” the bubbly stuff.
Make Smart Swaps
Identify what exactly it is about soda that has you hooked, then sub in alternatives that dish out similar attributes. If it’s the carbonation you crave, give seltzers a go. If it’s the caffeine, try an iced coffee or unsweetened tea. If it’s the sweetness you like, try experimenting with 100 percent fruit juices or amping up your aqua with fruit. And if you’re looking for an easy way to fill up your stomach… you’re better off going with a protein shake like Nutrisystem’s TurboShakes—a way more nutritious use of the calories. Curious how diet drinks stack up? Although sugar-free sodas seem like a good alternative since they don’t dish out any calories, several studies have suggested that diet soda drinkers are even more likely to be overweight or obese than regular soda drinkers. Plus, diet drinks are no better for your health—they deliver many of the same risks as regular soda, including tooth decay and bone thinning. Plus, they’ve also been linked to heart disease and depression in women. So while subbing in diet sodas is a good way to start weaning yourself off of the regular stuff, you’ll get the best benefits by cutting out soft drinks altogether.
One way to help you cut your soda habit is to focus on just how much activity you’d have to do in order to burn off the bottle. Research suggests that if you can train yourself to think of soda in terms of the effort it would take to counter its caloric impact, you may be less likely to drink it in the first place. In a 2014 Johns Hopkins University study, researchers placed signs in stores stating that to burn off a 20-ounce bottle of soda, buyers would have to walk 5 miles or jog for 50 minutes. When teenage customers saw the signs, they were more likely to buy a smaller soda, a water or no drink at all.