Help for Soda Lovers
What to do when you're a softie for soft drinks.
No Need to Go Cold Turkey
Soda is certainly not an ideal drink from a health standpoint -- it offers
no nutritional value and can be high in sugar, sodium, and caffeine. But the
good news, experts say, is that if you truly love it, there's no need to give
it up completely.
If you generally watch what you eat and are reasonably active, a soda or two
a day isn't going to derail your efforts, says Tavis Piattoly, RD, director of
performance enhancement at Ochsner Clinic's Elmwood Fitness Center in New
But if you regularly drink two, three, or more cans a day, the added sugar
can pile on the pounds "unless, of course, the soft drinks are planned into
an overall diet of moderation, variety, and of course, exercise," says Dee
Sandquist, RD, manager of nutrition and diabetes at the Southwest Washington
Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash.
Keep in mind that when you're trying to adopt a healthier diet, it's not a
good idea to completely deprive yourself of treats, Marr says.
"A very Spartan diet without some of your favorite foods is not
sustainable," she says. "I encourage people to figure out how to
include their favorite foods into their diet."
The Skinny on Diet Sodas
If you're trying to cut calories but don't want to give up soda altogether,
switching either to the new lower-calorie sodas or to diet sodas is a good
option, says Sandquist.
Extensive research has shown that the artificial sweeteners used in diet
sodas are safe (except for people who have the metabolic disorder
phenylketonuria or PKU, who should not consume aspartame).
But even with diet drinks, it's not a good idea to overdo. Researchers
suggests that artificial sweeteners might interfere with the body's natural
ability to count calories based on a food's sweetness. This could make people
who consume artificially sweetened items more likely to overindulge in other
sweet foods and beverages, say the authors of the study, published in the
International Journal of Obesity.
What if you simply don't like the taste of diet drinks? Here are some
suggestions from people who have made the switch:
- Try different brands to see which you find most palatable.
- Serve it ice-cold.
- Try adding lemon or lime to spark up the flavor.
- Take it slow: Start out by pouring a small amount of diet soda into your
glass of regular soda, then gradually increase the proportion of diet soda
until you get used to the taste.
Even better, try some non-soda alternatives. Water is the perfect no-calorie
beverage, and you can dress it up by adding citrus slices or a sprig of mint.
But when it just won't do, try:
- 100% fruit juices (while not necessarily lower in calories than soda, these
contain important nutrients, Marr says).
- Nonfat milk, which will also give you a calcium boost.
- Unsweetened tea. Try green tea (which also contains potentially
cancer-preventing phytonutrients) or herbal tea.
- Seltzer water with a splash of juice. Try orange, grapefruit, cranberry --
even mango or guava.
- Homemade lemonade -- made with lemon, water, and a small amount of sugar or
- Coffee, black or with skim milk and artificial sweetener. Try it iced in