Giving up that soda habit is one of the best things you can do for your health.
You know soda’s not good for you. But when you’re craving something sweet and fizzy or need an afternoon pick-me-up, soda is what you drink. Here’s why you really shouldn’t. Studies show that having as few as two sugar-sweetened beverages per week can raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Drink soda regularly, and you may have a harder time managing your blood sugar, as well as raise your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, according to a research review published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society. And if that’s not reason enough, consider the excess calories: With 150 calories per can of regular cola, drinking a soda a day could add up to as much as a 15-pound weight gain in a year.
As few as two sugar-sweetened beverages a week can raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Cutting out excess sugar by drinking less soda is particularly important for people with prediabetes, because simply losing 5 to 7% of your body weight can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, says diabetes educator Marina Chaparro, RD, CDE.
The Truth About Soda and Diabetes Management
The next logical question: Well, what about diet soda? Because the diet version is sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners instead of added sugars, it may have zero grams of carbs per serving. That means it won’t raise blood sugar on its own. Plus, switching from regular soda to diet soda will save you calories.
But it’s still not clear if drinking diet soda can prevent diabetes and obesity in the long run. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that both sugar-sweetened beverages and artificially sweetened beverages were linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Switching to diet soda may be a good first step if you’re trying to cut calories, but for optimal health, you’re better off weaning yourself from regular soda and diet soda. Try these tips to help quit your soda habit for good.
1. Take baby steps
No need to quit soda cold turkey. Start by slashing the number of sodas you drink a day by half, suggests Chapparo, who also serves as a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Then you can trim a little more each week.
Replace those sodas with non-caloric beverages. Maybe one soda switches to a diet drink, and the other becomes carbonated water. Or opt for a nutrient-rich drink like a smoothie, says certified diabetes educator Timika Chambers, RD, CDE. “Swap one of your sodas for a veggie smoothie,” she says. “That can retrain your taste buds to crave less sweet.” Here’s more advice for eating less sugar without feeling deprived.
2. Make water taste better
No matter how many times you hear that water is the healthiest drink ever, your body needs it to function, and so on and so on, if you don’t like the taste of it, you’re not going to drink it. So if you can’t stomach plain water, we have three words for you: infuse, infuse, infuse.
Chunks of fresh watermelon, orange slices, or strawberries add flavor to flat or sparkling water for little to no calories. You can try herb combos like cucumber and mint, or keep it simple with lemon or lime juice. Or for something more filling, puree whole fruits and then add water for more potent flavor, suggests registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Lorena Drago, RD, CDE. Or use frozen fruit as ice cubes in your water or seltzer.
3. Consider your carb-per-meal count
Many people with diabetes will aim for about 30 to 45 grams of total carbs per meal. One 12-ounce can of soda: about 40 grams of carbs. Yikes. Have a soda with lunch and you’ve maxed out your carb count before you’ve barely taken a few bites of your meal.
4. Get your caffeine kick from coffee
Several studies show that moderate coffee consumption may actually play a role in preventing type 2 diabetes. (Here’s more info on how to drink coffee healthfully with diabetes.) “Just remember to go easy on the add-ins like creamer, sugar, or caramel,” says Chaparro. One pump of flavoring at your local java joint can add 5 grams of carbs to your drink.
Moderate coffee consumption may play a role in preventing type 2 diabetes, multiple studies have shown.
5. Or become a tea lover
Green tea is a great choice because it’s packed with antioxidant-rich compounds. But if the flavor isn’t, well, your cup of tea, then opt for unsweetened black tea, which has almost no calories or carbs. Or sample a variety of herbal teas favored with lemon, mint, or even pomegranate, says Chaparro.
6. Equate soda to exercise
Figure out how much you have to work out to burn off the calories in regular soda. The math may not only surprise you, but it may inspire a different drink choice. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University tested that theory. They posted signs in stores stating that the calories in a 20-ounce bottle of soda take five miles of walking or 50 minutes of jogging to burn off. Teenagers were more likely to buy a smaller soda, water, or no drink at all after seeing the signs. Consider sticking a similar note on your fridge or pantry for soda-quitting inspo.