Sugary drinks have been linked to diabetes, obesity, and now to a shorter life span. A study led by Harvard University found that consuming at least two of these drinks each day makes you 31% more likely to die early from cardiovascular disease.
It’s a serious issue for anyone concerned about their own health and their children. While soda consumption has decreased in recent years, these liquid calories are still the primary source of added sugar for most Americans.
In particular, kids and teens average about 12 ounces of sugary drinks a day compared to the recommended maximum of 8 ounces per week. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatricians has joined many experts in supporting soda taxes and regulations on advertising.
While you’re waiting for policy reforms, you can change your own drinking habits. Follow these tips to help you consume more water and less sugar.
- Read labels. Soda is just one variety of beverages with added sugar or other sweeteners. Check the ingredients on fruit drinks, sports drinks, and other items. Juice has some nutrients but is still high in calories and sugar.
- Understand portions. You may not realize how much sugar you’re drinking. A single can of soda contains 7 to 10 teaspoons of sugar. Compare that to the American Heart Association’s recommendations to stay under 9 teaspoons a day for men and 6 for women.
- Tame cravings. Controlling sugar cravings can help you quit or cut back, so stay hydrated and eat more protein. While artificial sweeteners usually have fewer calories, their intense flavor may make you want more of the real thing.
- Know your triggers. There may be other factors that make you reach for a fruit punch. Stay extra alert if you tend to indulge after a workout or while you’re watching TV.
- Find substitutes. Replace sugary drinks with healthier choices. In addition to plain water, you may enjoy seltzer or a variety of teas.
- Plan for convenience. Make choosing water as easy as possible. Carry bottles around with you. Keep containers of filtered water in your refrigerator. Ask each family member to fill them back up when they run low.
- Create a schedule. Invent prompts that will encourage you to drink water. Down a glass with each meal and while your coffee is brewing.
- Set a goal. Specific targets may help you stay on track. Aim to consume a half ounce of water for each pound you weigh or replace your lunchtime soda with a glass of unsweetened iced tea.
- Enhance the flavor. Make water more interesting by adding fruits, herbs, and other wholesome ingredients. Experiment with lemon, ginger, and mint.
- Add ice. For a more gradual approach, water down your sugary drinks. Ask for extra ice when you’re eating out. Replace your usual glass of wine with a spritzer that’s half seltzer.
- Buy bigger glasses. Do you feel like frequent refills are interrupting your day? Super-size your water bottles and glasses. You’ll consume just as much liquid with less effort.
- Cut back on caffeine. If you want to quit your soda habit but it’s more difficult than you expected, caffeine could be the culprit. Switch to a variety without caffeine and see if it makes a difference.
- Eat fruit. Water from food counts too. Switch from juice to whole fruit to get fewer calories and more fiber. Other foods high in water include cucumber, salad greens, and yogurt.
Giving up sugary drinks is like changing any habit. Find healthy substitutes and keep practicing until your new choices become automatic. You’ll set a positive example for your children and increase your chances of leading a longer and more active life.