A couple years ago when I was working in an office, I had a pretty good weekday routine going: I’d have a well-balanced lunch (usually brought from home—bonus points!) and kept mostly to healthy snacks. My one remaining vice though, was the siren call of the vending machine. Every day at 3 p.m. Not for a candy bar, mind you—but for a big old 20-oz. bottle of Diet Coke. I never bought soda to keep at home, but for some reason that ice-cold bottle was a ritual I couldn’t give up when lunch was a distant memory and the end of the day seemed like it would never come. It was a “special” occasion, even though it happened five times a week!
We all know soda isn’t a great beverage choice, and aspartame-laden diet soda is a bad habit at best, harmful at worst. If you find yourself hitting the vending machine for a fix on a regular basis, there’s hope!
Why you should quit diet soda
A soda once in a while seems harmless enough, but consider this: one 12-oz. can of cola is 140 empty calories—basically just sugar. You’d have to do 15 minutes of a high-intensity workout to burn that.
Instead, you could have a serving of banana chips, 21 almonds, an apple with peanut butter, 2 pieces of string cheese, a granola bar, a serving of pretzels, 10 baby carrots with hummus, or a serving of Greek yogurt (with fruit!) for that number of calories—and you’d be getting protein, vitamins and minerals. Soda has been linked to everything from cavities and bone decay to obesity, diabetes and cancer, making it a lose-lose beverage.
Diet soda might be free of calories, but it’s got its own laundry list of risks. In addition to altering our gut microbes and contributing to diabetes, researchers have attributed soda to weight gain (especially around the waist) stemming from aspartame’s effect on blood glucose levels. Artificial sweeteners are also to blame for altering our taste buds (training us to seek out sweeter foods) and triggering insulin resistance and headaches.
6 Tips for quitting diet soda
1. Don’t keep soda at home. If you’ve already eliminated it in your house, congrats. If you haven’t, keeping it out of your cart is the first step.
2. Identify what you love about soda and replace it with something healthier. Is it the caffeine, the carbonation or the sweetness? All of the above? For me, it was mostly the carbonation and caffeine. I started turning to iced green tea for an afternoon pick-me-up, and adding seltzer water for carbonation. Put them together and voila: I was saving money and avoiding diet soda, but still getting caffeine and carbonation (and some antioxidants to boot).
3. Order water at restaurants. Tell yourself it’s to save money. Then see how much more flavorful your food tastes. If you want to splurge, go for wine or tea.
4. Avoid headaches. If caffeine and/or sugar withdrawal is giving you headaches, make sure you’re staying plenty hydrated. If they don’t go away, try subbing in a healthier source of caffeine or sugar to fill the void, like coffee, carrot juice, iced tea or coconut water.
5. Wean yourself off slowly. Try drinking a glass of water right before you drink a soda and see if you drink less. Or replace every other soda with water or another beverage until you don’t need it as much anymore.
6. One day at a time. Try telling yourself you’re only quitting for a day or a week. Soon you won’t even crave it anymore. It’s much easier to go cold turkey when you don’t even realize you’re quitting.
What to drink instead of diet soda
Stay off the proverbial sauce with these drinks that hydrate and replenish your body throughout the day.
1. Water + Seltzer Water: Staying hydrated is half the battle when you’re avoiding soda. Make sure to keep plenty of water (or seltzer water, if you need the carbonation) on hand all day.
2. Weight Loss Flush Beauty Water: Kickstart your day with refreshing grapefruit.
3. Vegan Chocolate Shake: Raw cacao powder provides a little caffeine, and plenty of antioxidants. If you have a sweet tooth, the sweetness from the dates will hit the spot.
4. Homemade Energy Drinks: Natural energy boosters like matcha, citrus and banana are the perfect way to start the day, and to give you sustained energy.
5. Pear, Raspberry and Rosemary Water: Increase blood flow to your brain and lower blood pressure with this earthy, fruity water.
6. Chia Green Tea Energy Drink: If you need more of a pick-me-up, turn to this antioxidant- and fiber-rich homemade energy drink. Add seltzer water for fizz.
8. Kombucha: Kombucha also affects your gut—but in a good way. This wonder drink is a great way to get a second (or third) wind at the end of the day while you get some probiotics, vitamins and minerals in your system. It’s also pleasantly fizzy.
9. Turmeric Tea: The curcumin in turmeric is a natural mood booster, and this soothing tea will help
10. Cucumber Melon Mint Water: Cucumber and mint are soothing, and melon adds a touch of sweetness.