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How to Give Up Soda

A Dietitian's Guide to Kicking Your Soda Habit in 3 Weeks

You didn't think your soda habit was that bad, but then you found out that all those extra calories could be the reason you're gaining weight. And worse — drinking soda increases your risk of diabetes, and it increases the belly fat that can cause heart disease and certain types of cancers, including stomach, pancreatic, and colon. Yikes.

If you're ready to quit your soda habit for good, registered dietitian Sheri Kasper has mapped out a three-week plan to help you get there. To get you inspired to quit, Sheri says, "It's rare to find one single dietary change that can impact your waistline as significantly as eliminating soda." That's because a 12-ounce can of soda contains about 140 calories. "If someone drinks two cans of regular soda per day and makes a switch to seltzer or water, that person will consume over 102,200 fewer calories over the course of a year — that's the potential to lose almost 30 pounds — with just one change."

Ditching soda isn't easy. Because it contains so much sugar, you have to break the sugar addiction that keeps you going back for more. Here's how to break the habit and get healthier in less than three weeks.

Do This Before Getting Started

Sheri says, "Take a couple of days to identify these three things:"

  1. What you truly love about soda
  2. When you typically enjoy it most
  3. Some unsweetened drinks that you genuinely enjoy

"This is really important," Sheri tells POPSUGAR. "Do you drink soda as a pick-me-up instead of coffee? Do you love how a sweet soda tastes in contrast to a savory meal? Is it all about the fizzy bubbles? Does an afternoon soda carry you through the 3 p.m. slump? Figuring this out will help you find reasonable replacements and healthy alternatives."

Week 1: Reduce Frequency

Sheri says that weaning yourself off soda gradually may help you succeed. "Start by reducing the number of servings you have each day." If you're a two- or three-can-a-day soda drinker, take that down to one can a day. If you have one can a day, drink a can every other day. Sheri suggests keeping a journal "to monitor how you're feeling, especially if you typically drink a caffeine-containing soda. Headaches are common when reducing caffeine consumption."

Week 2: Retrain Your Taste Buds

In the second week, you'll be down to one serving per day or every other day. Sheri says, "Dilute that serving with plain seltzer. This will make you feel like you're drinking soda but will help your taste buds adapt and learn to enjoy beverages that aren't as sweet."

Week 3: Stop Drinking Soda

Preparation is key this week for your success. "Stock your home and office with your favorite unsweetened drinks. If you're someone who usually enjoys a soda with your meal, be sure your meals contain a mixture of sweet and savory flavors that will satisfy your desire for contrasting flavors. For example, top your salad with dried fruit or add thinly sliced apple to your turkey sandwich."

Here are some beverage ideas that aren't plain water. Whether you're looking for a bubble fix or something to satisfy your sweet tooth, these healthier choices will help make the transition away from soda more exciting:

  • Infused water: Orange or grapefruit slices in your water are refreshing, but what about strawberries and mint, or rosemary and lemon? Putting fruit and herbs in your water will give you the flavor kick you crave.
  • Flavored seltzer water: "My favorite brand is Polar because they have the biggest variety of flavors and in my opinion, the strongest flavors."
  • Kombucha: It's slightly carbonated because of the fermentation process, so it will satisfy that bubbly craving
  • Club soda or plain seltzer with a splash of 100 percent juice and a lemon or lime
  • Iced herbal tea: "There are some fun, flavorful herbal teas on the market. Two of the sweetest (yet unsweetened) and tastiest teas I've found are Celestial Seasonings Zinger line of herbal teas. Their Sangria Zinger (made iced!) tastes just like fruit punch."
  • Coffee, black, chai, or green tea: These are great if you're missing the caffeine kick from your soda!
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Maria del Rio
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