Sugar-sweetened beverages are undeniably terrible for us and accept part of the blame for obesity, diabetes, weakened bones, kidney stones, poor dental health, and a slew of other conditions plaguing Americans. However, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is not dropping quickly enough as more studies warning about the dangers are unveiled. Consumption still hovers around 10 ounces a day on average, which provides roughly 11 teaspoons of sugar. The limit on sugar for a grown adult male is recommended to be nine teaspoons and for an adult female, six teaspoons per day. Let’s face it: sugar-sweetened beverages are unlikely to be the entirety of added sugar that a person consumes in a day.
You could try thinking of something disgusting every time that you see or think about soda:
In a study published in Appetite in 2016, when soda images were paired with disgusting pictures and water images were paired with pleasing photos, there was a significant decrease in real-world soda consumption across the week following the intervention. The experiment only increased negative attitudes towards soda in individuals who already had relatively higher baseline negative attitudes.
You could look at the nutrition facts label before drinking your beverage of choice:
In a cross-sectional study of 3,926 adults who completed the 2010 HealthStyles Survey, it was found that while 31% of the participants drank a sugar-sweetened beverage at least one time a day and 20% drank at least two servings a day, an astounding 80% of participants could not say how many calories are in a 24-oz fountain soda. After controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education level, annual household income, and geographic region, the odds for drinking sugar-sweetened beverages at least two times a day were significantly higher among adults who neither agreed nor disagreed that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can contribute to weight gain. The researchers concluded that “health education regarding the potential contribution of excess energy intake from sugar-sweetened beverages to weight gain could contribute to lowered consumption and lower rates of obesity.”
One can (12 oz) carbonated cola: 155 calories and 38 grams of carbohydrate
Small (16 oz) carbonated cola: 207 calories and 51 grams of carbohydrate
Medium (22 oz) carbonated cola: 284 calories and 70 grams of carbohydrate
Large (32 oz) carbonated cola: 413 calories and 102 grams of carbohydrate
Extra-large (44 oz carbonated cola): 568 calories and 140 grams of carbohydrate
Learning new stress management techniques might help:
Research has found that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can suppress the hormone cortisol (which is typically increased when we are under stress) and lessen the stress response in the brain. Drinks sweetened with aspartame do not have the same effect. In a study of 19 women between the ages of 18 and 40, those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages had a diminished cortisol response during a math test, compared to women who were drinking the aspartame-sweetened beverages. The women who drank the sugar-sweetened beverages also exhibited more activity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is sensitive to stress and involved in memory. This part of the brain is usually less active when a person is under pressure, partly explaining why we tend to forget things when stressed out. This study’s findings help explain why some people find sugary comfort food irresistible when they are stressed.
More tips for stopping the soda and sugar-sweetened beverages habit:
- Try infusing your water with fresh fruit, cucumber, or fresh herbs to make it more appealing. Try sparkling or seltzer water if you miss the carbonation.
- Wean yourself from your favorite drink slowly, rather than trying to quit cold-turkey.
- Start tracking your calories and watch how quickly soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages soak up your daily allowance.
- Try switching to freshly brewed tea, which has some caffeine (unless it’s herbal), but also contains healthful phytochemicals.
- Make sure that you’re drinking enough water. You might be craving your favorite sugary drink because you’re dehydrated.
- Repeat to yourself and write down why you’re quitting sugar-sweetened drinks – because you’ve gained weight, because dental work is expensive, or because you want to have healthy bones and don’t want to have heart disease or diabetes. Whatever your reason is, think of it often.
- Reward yourself (not with a sugar-filled drink) for going without the drink for a week, a month, etc.
- Tell your co-workers, friends, or family members that you’re trying to quit and ask them to call you out if they see you reaching for the drink.
- Come up with a new habit. Many people drink soda at work, for example, so what could you do to get away from your desk for a minute without drinking hundreds of liquid calories?