Stopping your soda habit does more than reduce what nutritionists call "empty" or nutrient-poor calories from your daily diet. Less soda means you will eat less too. True story; here are the plot lines:
The amount of sugar in a regular 12-ounce serving of soda - Do they serve that size anymore? - is staggering. Figure an equivalent of eight to 10 teaspoons if you were power-sprinkling over your cereal or crop-dusting a bowl of strawberries.
Every soda can is roughly 150 calories, and those bigger bottles from the vending machine are busting 250 calories and 15 spoonfuls of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
The caloric math is simple enough.
Eliminating a super-size drink per day cuts out hundreds of calories for many soda drinkers. Stop drinking your calories, and it frees space in your daily diet for wholesome foods and, no question, even a handful of those holiday cookies or doctored eggnogs that just are too hard to pass up. In football-speak, it's a way for your sweet tooth to stop piling on during the American eating marathon that stretches from about noon on Thanksgiving until the first January Monday back at work.
You probably know that, so you switched to diet soda long ago.
But researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found you can't beat the system - and that diet sodas might even lead to more extra pounds.
In a long-term study, 57 percent of individuals who drank two or more cans of diet soda per day became overweight in an average of eight years, compared with 47 percent of volunteers in the study who drank regular soda.
What's more, a 2007 Yale University study showed "on days when people drink soft drinks, they consumed more calories than on days when they did not have soft drinks. "Let's review: Same people, different outcomes. They simply ate more food on soda days compared to non-soda days. That's a pattern worth your attention as you look to get healthy this season.
You can do it
You don't have to kick your soda habit all at once, said Wahida Karmally, a nutritionist and associate scientist at Columbia University's Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research in New York.
"If you normally drink two cans a day, then cut it down to one," said Karmally, who is our kind of sensible, reality-based nutritionist. "Have a yogurt or nonfat milk - even chocolate or other flavors - when you would normally have the second soda."
Once you limit yourself to one soda per day, Karmally said, then you can go for the clean slate. The best practice is splashing your favorite 100 percent fruit juice (call it one shot) into a cup of sparkling water if you just can't let go of the need for fizz. Try different combinations. You will be surprised by how much you won't miss your soda. Karmally likes to make a tea punch from herbal tea spiked with a bit of fruit juice.
Karmally said not stocking soda at home is a strategy that works to reduce consumption. The idea is to make soft drinks the occasional splurge, not an everyday staple. The approach works. One sports nutritionist with kids says she limits her middle school-age kids to no more than three sodas per week and often they don't even reach their weekly limit (after a few weeks of making sure they reach the three maximum).
What if you slip?
Karmally has made it easy. You don't have to go cold turkey. Kicking the soda habit can be gradual, so slipping is less the issue than a total mudslide back to two or more sodas daily.
Researchers who study health habits and behavioral change estimate it takes about three full weeks to form a new habit - and maybe up to six months to completely vacate an unhealthy habit. Start by finding a substitute healthy drink or even a healthy snack to replace your customary soda. That will help you miss the soda less and less.
Try this tip from Karmally to avoid the temptation to pop another can or twist off another cap: Drink 8 to 12 ounces of water (make it ice-cold if that is how you like your soda). Wait 15 minutes to see if you are still thirsty. Chances are you will pass on the soda.
Best of all
Karmally said nutrition clients routinely talk about higher energy levels, better sleep and say that food tastes better once they quit daily soft drinks (which is interesting, given the research that people eat more on days they drink sodas).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun