If you drink soda on a regular basis, count yourself lucky — you are officially in possession of the most accessible, most bang-for-your buck, most inexpensive lifestyle change I know of.
Cutting back on your soda intake (and yes, diet soda counts here*) makes a massive impact on weight loss. It’s a one-two punch: cutting down a huge source of sugar, plus upping your hydration levels.
That combination leads to long-term benefits like:
- Reduction in joint and muscle pain
- Better mental clarity and cognitive function
- Reduced food cravings
- Appetite regulation
And even better news? You’ll start to see most of these changes within the first week of cutting back your soda intake.
*Attention diet soda guzzlers: The artificial sweeteners used in diet soda are one of the top contributors to sugar cravings. Which lead to increased consumption of things like baked goods and alcohol. Which leads to weight gain, and the opposite of all those bullet points you see above.
But giving up soda is no small feat. Both diet and regular sodas are formulated to be addictive, so you’re probably addicted to it. Plus, if your tastebuds are accustomed to that level of saccharine sweetness, everything else is going to taste super boring.
Try these 7 alternatives to soda to help you step down.
1. Cut your soda with seltzer water. This is the same approach I use for people who need to wean themselves off juice – start cutting it with increasing amounts of water. With soda, you can do this by adding seltzer water. Start with a 2:1 ratio of soda: seltzer. After a few days, go to 50/50. Gradually increase the amount of seltzer until you reach a 1:3 ratio.
2. Ginger beer. A great step-down from soda, because it still tastes more or less like ginger ale. Most ginger beers are sweetened with natural sugars (make sure to find one that is), but it has a greater proportion of ginger. This is my favorite ingredient for mocktails (see below).
3. Mock-mojito. In a tall glass, muddle together 3 basil leaves, 2 mint leaves, and a lime wedge. Pour in ginger beer to about the halfway mark, and fill the glass with ice. Give it a little stir, and finish with a splash of seltzer. Drink with a straw to avoid a mouthful of basil leaves.
4. Herbal tea spritzers. Brew an extra-strong batch of herbal tea. My favorites are chamomile, peppermint, and relax-y type blends. You could also use the fruity flavors and/or sweeten with a bit of honey if you like. Chill in the fridge. To make a spritzer, pour about 1/2 – 3/4 a glass of tea over ice, then finish with seltzer and a wedge of lemon.
5. Apple cider vinegar cocktail. Apple cider vinegar will directly help curb your soda cravings, because it alkalizes your body and satisfies that need for sweet. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a glass of sparkling water. Sweeten with honey if you prefer, and garnish with a lemon wedge. It’ll take you a couple days to get used to the taste, but once you do, you’ll start craving this as much as soda.
6. Flavored seltzer waters. (Noticing a theme here? We’re keeping the fizz.) I know from experience that die-hard soda fans kind of hate these drinks. But I have to include them, because there are so many flavors now, and they’re just such a better option. Keep trying different kinds until you find one you like.
7. Kombucha. This fermented, fizzy beverage has all the sweetness of soda, without all the crap. It’s so IN right now; you’ll find endless flavors to choose from at your local health food store. Plus you’ll get a hefty dose of probiotics, which aid digestion, support your immune system, and help curb cravings.
We get it — that afternoon craving for something cold and fizzy is powerful stuff. And nothing satisfies like an ice-cold can of Coke. (That used to be my preference, back when I was “using.”)
We’re not wagging fingers or waving the shame card in your face. We just want you to feel better! And we know (’cause it’s our job) that cutting back on your soda intake will have a direct, almost immediate impact on that.
Give one or two (or all) of these alternatives a try for ONE WEEK and see how you feel. And let us know about it!