13 ways to stop drinking soda for good By Amanda MacMillan Published February 26, 2015 You know soda's not exactly good for you—but at the same time, it can be hard to resist. Its sweet taste, pleasant fizz, and energizing jolt often seems like just what you need to wash down your dinner, get you through an afternoon slump, or quench your thirst at the movies. But the more soda you consume (regular or diet), the more hazardous your habit can become. And whether you're a six-pack-a-day drinker or an occasional soft-drink sipper, cutting back can likely have benefits for your weight and your overall health. Here's why you should be drinking less, plus tips on how to make the transition easier. Why you should quit The biggest risk for regular soda drinkers is the excess calories, said Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "The calories in regular soda are coming entirely from added sugar, and you're not getting any value in terms of vitamins or minerals, or even good quality carbohydrates," she said. But soda may also be causing other types of harm. Studies have shown that its consumption is linked with tooth decay and diabetes, and it also seems to be bad for your bones. "It may have something to do with the phosphorus in soda, or it could be that people are drinking soda instead of other beverages—like milk—that have nutrients necessary for healthy bones," Sandon said. But what about diet soda? Sugar-free sodas may not have any calories, but that doesn't mean they're any good for you. In fact, they may not even help you lose weight. (Research on this topic has been mixed, at best, but several studies have shown that diet soda drinkers are more likely to be overweight or obese than regular soda drinkers.) Plus, diet drinks have many of the same health risks as regular soft drinks, including tooth decay and bone thinning, and they've also been linked to heart disease and depression in women. Switching to diet sodas may be a smart first step if you're trying to eliminate excess calories, said Sandon, but your best bet is to eventually give them up, too. Wean yourself off slowly That news may be enough to convince you that you should stop drinking soda, but it could still be easier said than done. "People really can become addicted to soda, so you have to be a realist and not an idealist," said nutritionist Stefanie Sacks, author of the forthcoming book “What the Fork Are You Eating?” "I don't recommend going cold turkey; you need to wean yourself off, just like you would anything you've become dependent on." If you typically drink multiple servings of soda a day, Sacks suggests first cutting back to one a day. Give that two weeks, then switch to three sodas a week. "It gives you a chance to adjust gradually, which should lead to real, sustainable change," Sacks said. Mix it with water Sandon also recommends weaning yourself slowly off soda, and sometimes suggests that her clients start drinking half-soda, half-water. "You're automatically drinking less and hydrating and filling up with water, which is a good thing," she said. But there's an added advantage, as well: "It cuts back on the sweetness you get from soda, which is one of the things people get really used to. If you're drinking less sugar, your taste buds will change and soon you won't need that sweetness anymore." Start tracking your calories If you're blindly throwing back colas without stopping to think of their impact on your waistline, you could be in for a rude awakening: Each 12-ounce can of Coke, for example, contains 140 calories, while a 20-ounce bottle has 240. Downloading a calorie-tracking app may help you realize just how much those beverages can affect your daily calorie consumption—as long as you actually log in and record each serving. Instead of pouring yourself refill after refill, start paying attention to how much you're actually drinking; once you do, you may be more willing to cut back. Do the exercise math Another way to quantify the calories you're drinking is by thinking about how much exercise it would take to burn them off. In a 2014 Johns Hopkins University study, researchers placed signs in corner stores stating that a 20-ounce bottle of soda would take 5 miles of walking or 50 minutes of jogging to burn off. These "advertisements" worked: When teenager customers saw these signs, they were more likely to buy a smaller soda, a water, or no drink at all. "When you explain calories in an easily understandable way such as how many miles of walking needed to burn them off, you can encourage behavior change,” said the study authors. Switch to unsweetened tea Need that jolt of caffeine to wake up in the morning? If you're not a coffee drinker, Sandon suggests sipping on unsweetened iced tea instead. "It can be just as refreshing, and there are real health benefits to drinking the phytochemicals in tea," she said. If you don't like the taste of plain tea, mix in some lemon, mint, or a small amount of sugar or artificial sweetener—at least during your transition-from-soda phase. The important thing is that you're aware of, and in charge of, exactly what's going into your drink and how much is added. Drink a glass of water first Whenever the urge to drink a soda hits, fill up a big glass of ice water and finish that first. "A lot of times, people drink soda just because they're bored, or they're thirsty, and that's what's available or that's what they're used to," Sacks said. If you're still craving a soda after you've downed your H2O, then you can reconsider whether it's really worth it—but chances are your thirst will be quenched and you'll feel satisfied from just the water. (You can make this work while you're out and about, too, by always carrying a bottle of water with you.) Treat yourself to natural brands When Sacks has successfully weaned her clients down to just a few sodas a week, she often recommends they switch to a brand with fewer artificial ingredients. "They're more expensive, but you'll be drinking them less often," she said. Sacks likes Grown Up Soda, Santa Cruz Organics, and Blue Sky because they don't contain high-fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients, and generally contain less sugar than the big brands. "They're an overall healthier choice, especially if you're only drinking them occasionally."