The Skinny on Diet Sodas continued...
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 artificial sweetener.
- Coffee, black or with skim milk and artificial sweetener. Try it iced in hot weather.
Making Better Choices
More important than eliminating soda, nutritionists say, is adding more nutritional choices to your diet.
"Soft drinks are bad for the diet only when they replace foods that contain beneficial nutrients," says Sandquist, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
And if you can't kick your "addiction," don't beat yourself up. Gregorczyk, for example, says she's striving for moderation, not perfection.
"I will never be able to go cold turkey," she says. "The most I've tried to force myself to do is cut back, so, for example, I'm currently trying to have no more than two Cokes a day.
"Eventually I would like to get down to one Coke a day, but I'm not sure how easy that will be. As long as I limit myself right now, I tell myself that I am heading a step in the right direction."